The Chip Makers

ND microchip
Notre Dame Microchip

Each year, a group of Notre Dame students receives a massive—though tiny—challenge: Build a semiconductor chip inside Notre Dame’s nanofabrication facility.

It was the fall of 2021, and headlines were bristling with stories about the ongoing “chip choke.”

A group of Notre Dame engineering students taking a course called Integrated Circuit Fabrication, or IC Fab, followed the stories closely. Assembly lines were lurching back to life following the disruptions that came with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, many were stalled once again waiting for some of the tiniest components in the design of their products: semiconductor chips. Since the majority of the world’s most advanced semiconductors come from a single chip maker located on the island of Taiwan, there was no easy solution. Ford Motor Co. began filling acres of parking lots at Kentucky Speedway with new, nearly fully assembled Super Duty pickups, eventually amassing a stockpile so large it could be seen from space.

Stories of the chip choke left the public outraged and incredulous: How could a component as thin and narrow as a thumbnail stop multibillion-dollar industries in their tracks?

But for the Notre Dame students in IC Fab, the stories were something else: relatable. That is because they, too, were chip makers, and they were in the throes of a chip choke of their own.

Read more here

Originally published by the Office of Strategic Content at on May 01, 2023.