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Thursday, 4 March 2010

Atic gets ready for chip challenge

On the wall of Ibrahim Ajami’s office in Abu Dhabi, a web of geometric patterns cut into what looks like a bronze-gold disc is set in a dark wood frame. But, rather than a piece of modern art or a vinyl record, the object is a wafer, a slice of pure silicon semiconductor material worth about $6,000, which is at the centre of Mr Ajami’s ambitions.

A pristine wafer, made up of integrated circuits, is the end product of the semi-conductor industry. A 300 millimetre wafer may contain 200 dies and each die may contain up to 2,000m transistors.

Produced in conditions 100,000 times cleaner than a medical operating theatre (see picture) by tools that cost up to $600m apiece, each wafer takes about three months to manufacture.