January 20, 2022

What Are Microchips? The Basics

3 min read

We all probably know enough about microchips that we’re aware much of the technology we use wouldn’t work without them. Your television has a microchip, and so does your Fitbit and cellphone.

But what are microchips, exactly, and how do they work? What does a microchip do? Despite how widespread this piece of technology is, the average citizen likely doesn’t know much about it.

Curious yet? Well, keep reading. There’s much to discuss about microchip technology and some of its applications.

After reading this, you’ll have the basics of microchips are, how they work, and a better understanding of what goes into making the things you enjoy tick.

So What Are Microchips?

Microchips go by various aliases. You can call them chips, computer chips, or integrated circuits (ICs). Regardless of what you call them, they’re – at their core – electrical circuits attached to silicon.

Silicon microchips have transistors that turn electrical currents off and on as power. Silicon is an excellent material to make chips with because of its semiconductive nature.

Semiconductive materials allow electricity to flow through easier than most. Yet, silicon chips’ “half conductive” nature requires extra materials, like boron, to be added. The boron/silicon mixture allows currents to turn off or on.

Making microchips is also a difficult job. It’s not so much the act of making chips that’s hard but rather access to locations to construct them.

Exceedingly clean rooms and million-dollar machinery are just two requirements to create chips. You could say that making microchips takes plenty of hard prep work to accomplish.

A Brief Overview of Microchip Types

There are primarily two kinds of microchips: logic and memory. When you hear someone say that chips are the “brain” of a device, they refer to a logic chip.

Logic chips process information to do work. The first microchip was a logic type, specifically a CPU or central processing unit. CPUs were first made in the 1960s but spawned other logic chips from there.

Lab technicians created GPUs or graphical processing units to enhance computer graphic capabilities. NPUs or neural processing units are like mathematically inclined minds and enable machine learning.

The second kind of microchip, memory chips, keeps information. DRAM (dynamic random access memory) saves memory when devices are still on.

NAND Flash, which you can find in flash drives and digital cameras, can store memory even when a device is off. However, DRAM does have the advantage of reading data more rapidly than NAND.

Microfluidic Chips

Microfluidics focuses on various technological applications involving miniaturized devices with channels that allow fluids to flow. Liquids don’t operate microscale like they do in larger, everyday applications.

The point of microfluidics is to study how liquids move on microscale devices instead of in a laboratory setting. A microfluidic chamber is one example of microfluidic studies.

Specifically, microfluidic chambers focus on cell culture and the manipulation of cells with small pipettes.

Want to Learn More?

So what are microchips? They can be found inside various technologies and typically serve two purposes: computational and logistical tasks or storing memory. Logic chips handle the former, while memory chips perform the latter.

Some microchips help analyze microfluid mechanics and observe cellular growth. Microfluid chambers are just one kind of microfluidic study.

If you’re hungry for more general knowledge, browse the website for more articles. Odds are you’ll find something that engages your curiosity and leave knowing more than before you visited.

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