University of Michigan makes silicon from liquid metal, aims for low-cost chips

Forming silicon normally requires extreme temperatures of more than 2,000F, with the expensive energy to match. The University of Michigan has developed a technique involving liquid metal that could shed most of the heat -- and cost. By coating a liquid gallium electrode with silicon tetrachloride, researchers can generate pure silicon crystals through the gallium's electrons at a comparatively cool 180F. While the crystals are currently small, bigger examples are at least theoretically possible with new metals or other refinements. Any eventual commercial success could lead to much easier, and likely cheaper, manufacturing for processors and solar cells; given that silicon still forms the backbone of most technology, real-world use can't come quickly enough.