(REVIEW JOURNAL) – The global coronavirus pandemic has brought with it a wide variety of unexpected consequences, including major supply chain disruptions. One of the most disruptive aspects of the supply chain shakeup has been the global chip shortage. While you might think that a shortage of computer chips would only affect a few, select industries, the truth is that semiconductors run everything from your smartphone to your new car.
“Chips” are small, flat pieces of silicon with electronic circuits on them. They function as tiny electrical switches that turn on or off the flow of electricity. Also known as semiconductors or microchips, these silicon wafers can each hold literally billions of transistors on them, and they are indispensable components of the electronics-based world in which we live. According to Matteo Rinaldi, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Northeastern University, “I imagine there are more than 100 billion chips in daily use around the world. So think about how many transistors and semiconductors we use in our lives everyday.”
Even before the pandemic struck, demand for microchips exceeded supply. However, the global spread of COVID-19 created the perfect storm when it came to microchips. First, the already-excessive demand for chips skyrocketed even further, as global stay-at-home orders resulted in unprecedented usage of phones, tablets and streaming devices. Second, the worldwide shutdown of production facilities meant that, for a time, chip production essentially reached a standstill. Lastly, ports around the world also went into shutdown mode, resulting in massive supply chain bottlenecks.
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