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silicon laptops

Not silicone this time [link], but a celebration of the element that is so useful and plentiful
  [vote for,

Imagine a laptop whose body is made out of machined solid polycrystalline silicon rather than plastic, aluminium, titanium, magnesium, or steel.

See [links] for some inspirational pictures. I think the blueness of the solar cells is due to being doped, so the laptop would be gray by default, but doping would still be an option just for appearance.* Unlike in the gray pictures, the laptop's surfaces would be machined flat or curved as appropriate, but the crystal structure would still be apparent on that smooth surface (after an acid etch, if necessary). The silicon's natural rough, fractured surface could be left alone (probably after being produced by deliberate breaking) for accent areas on gamer-oriented laptop models.

Instead of slicing a silicon boule widthwise in to wafers, as is done for semiconductor manufacturing, it would be sliced lengthwise into rectangular pieces, like a tree trunk. These would then be further machined into the laptop body parts. If it turns out the silicon alone is not strong enough, an internal frame made of a stronger material could be added; this would work like a sword with a harder but more brittle alloy for the edge and a softer but stronger alloy for the back of the blade.**

Pure (undoped) silicon is a dielectric at room temperature, so Wi-Fi/Bluetooth antenna placement should be about as unrestricted as in a plastic-bodied laptop.

It would not be practical to use the laptop's silicon body as a substrate for fabricating the silicon semiconductor circuits that make up the important parts of the computer's electronics, not least (nor anywhere near most) because those need monocrystalline silicon, which is more expensive and less pretty than polycrystalline.

On the other hand, polycrystalline silicon would probably be suitable to make a capacitive touch surface out of. The entire palm rest area could then be a giant multitouch trackpad (with rested palms ignored by their shape and size).

Porous silicon apparently can be made to photoluminesce and electroluminesce [link]. I don't know what it takes to porate silicon, but this could be a way to implement some kind of low-resolution display for status or touch area indication (e.g.), or just cool-looking light effects. Alternatively, maybe an OLED screen could be printed onto the silicon?

Even if these laptops never became popular, their mere existence as inspiration could also open up a whole field of using silicon as a structural or aesthetic material. Silicon for mechanical applications has been studied in the past [link], but not extensively or with any commercialization that I'm aware of.

*I guess you could try to make the laptop's body photovoltaic…

**Hmm… Damascus laptops, too?

N/A [2019-05-28]

notexactly, May 28 2019

The idea that inspired this one silicon laptop
by [noyola]. I thought that was going to be this, from its word-misusing title. [notexactly, May 28 2019]

Visual inspiration: compilation of three pictures of polycrystalline silicon https://commons.wik...con_compilation.jpg
Small, but has links to larger versions of 2/3. [notexactly, May 28 2019]

Visual inspiration: a very swirly polycrystalline silicon solar panel https://www.flickr....awa-soba/9068489963
In Okinawa. Looks like some sort of particle system visualization! [notexactly, May 28 2019]

Visual inspiration: a chunk of polycrystalline silicon https://previews.12...hite-background.jpg
How does it form such a surface when it breaks? Anybody know? [notexactly, May 28 2019]

Visual inspiration: another chunk of polycrystalline silicon https://thumbs.drea...ground-97817488.jpg
Very interesting texture on this one. No idea how that formed. [notexactly, May 28 2019]

The structural and luminescence properties of porous silicon https://aip.scitati...oi/10.1063/1.366536
I've only read the abstract, but it looks interesting. [notexactly, May 28 2019]

Silicon as a Mechanical Material http://inst.cs.berk...5/fa01/PETERSEN.PDF
About monocrystalline silicon, but it's the only paper on the subject I found. [notexactly, May 28 2019]


       My recollection of working with silicon is that it is terribly brittle. Am I misunderstanding or misremembering this?
RayfordSteele, May 28 2019

       I don't know (though the last [link] has some data), and it could be that it's much less brittle when significantly thicker than a wafer, but that's why I included   

       // If it turns out the silicon alone is not strong enough, an internal frame made of a stronger material could be added; this would work like a sword with a harder but more brittle alloy for the edge and a softer but stronger alloy for the back of the blade.** //   

       As well, if necessary, the external edges or just corners of the laptop could be made of or capped with some other material, to prevent chipping.
notexactly, Jun 21 2019


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