FutureTech: Your semiconductor chips made in Space-shuttle, Moon or Mars

Date: 08/02/2024
Is space a final frontier for semiconductor chip fabrication? Well, the answer looks to be not so confirmed "yes", but some trends are pointing in that direction. Space is different from earth's atmosphere, where you don't need to create vacuum and the near-zero gravity. Space provides some advantages in semiconductor fabrication. Space provides an environment, where some chip making processes can be skipped. Semiconductor chip fabrication is one of the manufacturing area, where a space-environment may suit better than earth. Vacuum and dust-free is must for semiconductor manufacturing.

wafer fab in space

John Vickers, the principal technologist in the area of advanced materials and manufacturing at NASA, quoted “Semiconductor technology and innovation are crucial for our nation’s future. NASA is interested to use its position as a global leader for in-space manufacturing to contribute to the advanced technologies and our next-generation workforce that are essential to support these national efforts.” at world’s first roadmapping workshop for semiconductors held in July 2023 at the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering at Purdue University.

Author TJ Triolo in an article writes "Manufacturing microelectronics in space has the potential to eliminate key lengthy and costly steps in the semiconductor manufacturing process, specifically for 3D oxide-based resistive random-access memory, or RRAM, devices used on Earth." Triolo also writes "Etching is required in Earth-based semiconductor manufacturing processes due to the need for a thicker layer of semiconductor wafer thin film material to compensate for pressure from gravity. The researchers hypothesize a slimmer thin film layer can be used in space due to the lack of gravity, resulting in a trench already made deep enough during manufacturing to render etching unnecessary."

Read more: Taking semiconductor manufacturing to new heights

Most challenging is building semiconductor fabs in space at economical cost. Here is first commercial announcement in building semiconductor fabs in space:

Redwire. A global, pure-play company in space infrastructure has developed a autonomous semiconductor manufacturing platform called MSTIC. MSTIC set to embark on its maiden voyage to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard Northrop Grumman’s 20th cargo resupply services mission (NG-20). MSTIC is developed in collaboration with the ISS National Laboratory and NASA’s In Space Production Applications Flight Demonstrations program. Redwire also plans to establish a 30,000 square foot microgravity payload development facility and mission operations center in Floyd County, Indiana.As MSTIC embarks on its inaugural mission to the ISS, it heralds a new era of autonomous semiconductor production in space.

semi fab equipment for space

Well, there is no environmental-caring body seriously caring of polluting the space with dangerous chemical exhausts. Where on Earth, you need extra systems to take care of those pollutants. We got to see how chips going to be made without polluting space. Experts may claim it is safer to pollute space than earth!