UK startup believes semiconductors made in space may be 10 – 100X more efficient than those made on Earth
UK startup company, Space Forge, is preparing to send a satellite into space to manufacture new semiconductor materials that can be used on Earth.
According to a recent article at space.com, the newest Space Forge satellite, ForgeStar-1, will soon ship to the US in anticipation of a launch at the end of this year or in early 2024.
Space Forge recently signed a collaboration agreement with US aerospace giant Northrop Grumman to provide space-made semiconductor substrates to be further developed in Northrop’s own foundries.
Manufacturing semiconductor materials is costly and energy intensive on Earth, but the vacuum and microgravity conditions of space could be conducive to developing completely new semiconductor materials more efficiently, according to Space Forge CEO and founder Josh Western.
“Producing compound semiconductors is a very intense and very slow process; they are literally grown by atoms,” said Western. “And so gravity has a profound effect, basically shifting the bonds between those atoms. In space you’re able to overcome that barrier, because there’s an absence of gravity.”
Western added that space also provides a perfect vacuum, which is necessary to protect the sensitive material from contamination. In factories here on Earth, this vacuum has to be created by industrial machines. The combination of the microgravity and vacuum of space can enable researchers to create semiconductors that are “10 to 100 times more efficient semiconductors than you have on Earth,” according to Western.
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