From alchemy to semiconductors: Sulfuric acid

The ongoing global semiconductor shortage has raised awareness of supply chains and why it is so important to ensure their strength and stability.

There are various materials that are needed to process semiconductors. One of them is sulfuric acid, which is vital for a number of industries despite its accurate reputation as a highly corrosive substance.

Let’s take a closer look at this chemical, how the market for sulfuric acid is looking, and where Samsung C&T Trading & Investment Group comes in.

From oil of vitriol to semiconductors

Discovered in the 8th century by alchemist Jabir ibn Hayyan, sulfuric acid was once viewed with such high regard that it was connected with the legendary philosopher’s stone. Often referred to during medieval times as “oil of vitriol,” highly purified sulfuric acid was found to dissolve almost every substance except for gold, giving rise to its alchemical appeal.

In modern times, sulfuric acid has widespread uses, including producing fertilizers and detergents, as well as for removing oxidization in the iron and steelmaking industries.

Sulfuric acid is also needed in a highly concentrated form for the processing of semiconductors. It needs to be extremely pure to remove any impurities, and so we often refer to electronics-grade sulfuric acid for this purpose. As a comparison, the purity level of this concentrated form of sulfuric acid can be as high as 98%, while it can be in the 60% range for use in fertilizers and around 30% for battery acid.

Sulfuric acid market outlook

Given the importance of fertilizers and detergents during the pandemic era when the food supply and hygiene have been major global concerns, it is no surprise that sulfuric acid has been in high demand.

The outlook for the sulfuric acid market will be positive for years to come, as it is expected to reach around USD 25.9 billion by 2029, rising at a CAGR of 3.4% from 2022.

As noted, there are various grades of product that contribute to sulfuric acid demand. In particular, the ultra-pure sulfuric acid market is set to increase at a similar rate to the overall market, growing by USD 59.08 million from 2021 to 2026.

Where does Samsung C&T fit in?

Trading companies are an essential part of the various chains helping to restore and maintain supply of commodities and products, including semiconductors. Samsung C&T is committed to contributing to the stable supply of key industrial materials. Samsung C&T is also actively working to strengthen the sulfuric acid supply chain for high-purity semiconductors through collaboration with domestic and foreign partners.

Going forward, Samsung C&T will continue to strive to find suppliers that hold technologies which meet the needs of the industry. In addition, the company aims to secure solutions based on its global network to ensure the stable supply of key materials and components in semiconductor-related industries, which are expected to continue to see strong demand amid ongoing IT development.

Scroll to Top