In the beginning of the project, our group investigated whether it was more advantageous to manufacture integrated chips made from Gallium Arsenide or from Silicon. The benefits of using Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) over Silicon (Si) are:
However, we discovered that even with these advantages, gallium arsenide has not been able to out-compete silicon due to several disadvantages:
As a result, silicon remained the dominant material for semiconductors while the market for gallium arsenide circuits remained very small. Currently, silicon comprises 95% of the semiconductor industry whereas arsenide comprises only 5% of the semiconductor market. This has led to our choice of creating a space manufacturing facility that focusses on silicon computer chip production. However, even though our facilities will mainly manufacture silicon chips, once the station is established, it can be adapted to produce other types of chips, such as arsenide integrated circuits. These circuits would be expensive, however, in part because the conductor is gold as opposed to aluminum. arsenide is used in microwave devices (in other words: high speed communications). arsenide is a very efficient electricity-light converter, making it a good component of solar panels. The most efficient solar panels we have today are made from silicon and ø arsenide.
Being in space presents us with another opportunity: there, we can develop a facility that uses both arsenide and silicon since in orbit there is no cross contamination. Gold is toxic to silicon, and arsenide and silicon are dopants for each other. Without gravity, cross contamination does not occur.
We are hearing that the new material of the future may not be arsenide, but rather silicon germanium. It is reputedly easier to work with and has several electrical advantages, without being severely toxic to us.