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THE SAND-A miraculous substance

Unitatea de invatamnat :Colegiul National Matei Basarab

At first glance it would seem that between sand, glass and computer chip there is no connection. Yet,
relations are much closer than we might think as the material is the same for all,namely the silicon.
If the alchemists had stopped chasing after rainbows, meaning the artificial production of gold then the history of
mankind would have been different. Instead of trying something impossible it would have been better to built on
sand. More specifically, on quartos sand, which, in its pure form, is nothing more than a combination of chemical
elements such as silicon and oxygen. But for the alchemists there would not have been anything which could attract
their attention as long as the quartos sand can be easily found in nature in almost immeasurable amounts and not as
rare as the gold.
For them the history of sand wasnt completely unknown by the year 300 B.C. in Mesopotamia, the glass was used
to cover the stone or ceramic beads. In Egypt, the first glass vessels were made in 1500 B.C. The earliest glass
factory was also built in Egypt in 1350 B.C.
The earliest recipe for production of the glass submitted to us comes from the library of clay tablets of the
Assyrian king, Assurbanipal(668-626 B.C.) who says : take 60 parts of sand , 180 parts of ashes from the marine
plants , 5 parts of chalk and you have glass. This recipe is still valid nowadays .The glass was and is still a versatile
raw material which can be processed from simple glass, to safety glass and ornaments.
The only thing that the alchemists couldnt obtain from sand, was gold. Apart from the silicon that the sand
contains a thing known and understood by the scientists, technicians and merchants in the XX century you could
remove the gold in terms of money. You have to know that we refer here to the silicone, silicid or any other raw
materials. We consider only pure silicon which unlike silicon oxide meaning the quartz and quartos sand cannot be
found in nature.
Along with the silicon you can say that the philosophers stone was found, but the bad part was that with all the
experiments made more or less at random they could not give a result. It was actually the merit of some theoretical
reflections, more specifically, it was necessary for the quantum mechanics which proved to be nothing but fantasy.
Only the most recent physics discoveries have made possible the development of transistors. Because
transistors are nothing more than transistors the so-called semiconductors appeared. Semiconductors are
substances whose electrical properties are between metals (conductive) and nonmetals (isolated).
Beside this an ideal conductor with its specific electrical properties should be easy to handle that is why the
silicon proved to be the ideal semiconductor.

Semiconductors are substances whose electrical conductivity is much lower than that metals but they can
increase their temperature. In the same category we can find the silicon, selenium,germanium and the copper oxide.
By adding an insignificant amount of other elements the semiconductors can be controlled or modified. If the base
substance which is in the most of the cases quadrivalent (e.g. germanium) is added as a donor a pentavalent element
will provide a surplus of electrons which will migrate in an electronical field representing an electronic current. Thus
the n-type semiconductors are made.
A trivalent element as acceptor will steal the electrons of base substitution in this way they are going to form
gaps that will act like positive charges. Thus the p-type semiconductors are made.
The semiconductors form the basis of many modern technologies such as electronic data processing technique
of microscopic and photovoltaic systems. The semiconductor with its electrical properties must be operable.. The
pure silicon proved to be an ideal semiconductor, the first silicon transistors appeared in 1994-1996. The first radios
with transistors in series were produced in the late 50s.
Due to the fast development of microelectronics we were able to obtain larger and more qualitative silicon
crystals.In addition, it was necessary to add phosphorus and bromine atoms and thus, in the 60s we could finally
obtain the first chips.
At first, by chip we could only understand something like a little detached or a small disc , but nowadays
everyone knows that a chip is a silicon label with an approximately surface of 1-2 square centimeters which can be
integrated up to 10 billion tiny elements , especially transistors , but also capacitors and electronic parts that are
connected through short and extremely fine electrical conductors.
A single chip of this kind can be a miniature computer and its called a microprocessor or there is a chip that
stores information in the form of electrical charges which is called a memory chip. The chips are considered to be the
soul of every computer and serve as the main elements for the complex digital systems.
The first silicon chips contained pretty simple electrical circuits and so in 1971 the producer of the integrated
circuits, Intel , put all the main components of a small computer in one single chip.
The result, the 4004 chip, was the first microprocessor in the world and it was used for the portable electronic
computers. Since then they have produced several series of microprocessors increasingly stronger the tendency being
to cram as many silicon transistors as possible in a small area. The first microprocessor contained 2300 transistors
although by the time of 1999 an ordinary microprocessor contained over 10 million transistors.
The construction of such a chip represents itself a work of art by a particular genre (by comparison we could
speak about a task of designing a big city with all its buildings and streets on a surface not bigger than the nail of a
thumb). But the formidable progresses of microelectronics could take your breath away making you even more
amazed. The main purpose is the continuing miniaturization and increasing complexity of the parts and at the same
time the development of even faster computers. At this moment no one can see the end of this evolution.
For a better understanding of what miracles our computers are capable of we have to dig up first in the
structure of material and gain some new information about the solid bodies.
We can build an electrical device called p-n Junction or a diode semiconductor through the impurification
of a semiconductor crystal with donor impurities and with acceptor impurities on the other side.

the conventional symbol of the semiconductor diode

The transistor is an electronic device consisting of three areas of semiconductors two of which which n- type
and p- type one or two of the p- type and one of n- type.


Both semiconductor diodes and transistors replace the electric tubes having a lower energy consumption and
operating duration ten times higher much reduced size and higher resistance to mechanical shock.
The development of technologies for the fabrication of semiconductor devices enabled on a single silicon
wafer/plate of complex electronic circuit can contain more diode transistors resistors and sometimes capacitors. Thus
two types of integrated circuits were created analog (linear) and numeral (digital). The main distinction between the
two is that the analog technique allows a variation of signals in a continuous domain of values , and thus the
performance achieved is also variable , while the numeral techniques allow signals with only two values after the
principle all or nothing with the conventional notation of 1 or 0. Consequently, a numeric device may or may not
work (to a fault) and so eliminating the need of adjustments, which in the analog sophisticated equipment started to
be too overly demanding .Due to the many possible sources of error, the analog equipment was slowly replaced with
the digital one because of the almost non error sources. The numeric (digital) equipment is based on logic circuits
being nothing else but electric circuits whose operation is based on the binary mathematics principles. In turn the
logical circuits are divided into: combinational logic circuits and sequential logic circuits.
Another use of silicon as a semiconductor is the photovoltaic cells. Every cell consists of a piece of a N-type
of silicon and another piece of P-type. A small flow of the electrons through the junction between the N side and P
side creates a small potential difference in the junction. When the light meets the cell it dislodges electrons which
will cross the junction and so forming a stream. Modern solar cells have an efficiency of almost 70 % in terms of
conversion of light into electricity.
The hardness of silicon combined with the possibility of manufacturing at the microscopic level is recently
exploited by the production of micro-machines silicon needle rollers, wheels and valves are made by using

different techniques for the manufacturing of microchips. The micro -machines are also used in areas such as
medicine and motion control devices spacecraft.
Similar processes are used to achieve the photonic crystals tiny network bars of interconnected silicon that can
capture light of certain frequencies. The exact light frequency is chosen by changing the distance between bars.
Getting variations or impurities in the network, you can create specific light paths in crystal. Photonic crystal could
be the key of development in communications and is expected in future data transfer will be achieved in particular
by light pulses instead of electrons.
And ultimately the sand was and is still a miraculous substance that defines the modern world influencing the life of
the entire planet through its multitude of uses from glass and ending with the best computers
Think about one thing, how it would have been if the sand had never existed?
Are you aware of the importance of the sand?
I will tell you without sand there would be no glass that protects us from bad weather, there would be no chips that
help us with the function of electronic equipment, there would be no computers and without them there would be no
modern technology. But the most important is that without sand there would be no silicon and without it there would
have been no track of the world that we all know.