Texas freeze shuts chip factories amid shortages

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Computer chipsImage source, Getty Images/BBC

A fierce winter storm has closed computer-chip facilities in Texas, amid a global chip crisis.

Millions of people in the US state have been left without electricity due to the storm, and authorities are prioritising power for families.

Samsung and NXP are among the companies to have halted production at their Texas facilities.

Car and electronics-makers had already been facing chip shortages caused in part by the coronavirus pandemic.

Texas is the centre of semiconductor manufacturing in the US, with more facilities than any other state.

Typically, chip factories have to run 24 hours a day to be economically viable.

One expert said the power crisis would be a "big headache" for the factories, but that the closures would probably have only a small effect on the problem of chip shortages.

Dr Richard Windsor from the technology research firm Radio Free Mobile said a three-day closure would represent about 1% of the facilities' capacity.

Some industries - particularly car-makers - have faced manufacturing delays due to the chip shortage.

Expecting higher demand for laptops and lower demand for vehicles, many chip-makers focused on the production of processors for home electronics.

But demand for cars was surprisingly strong by the end of 2020, leaving some companies short of chips.

The Texan fabrication plants had been warned their power could be cut amid an energy shortage in Texas.

NXP Semiconductor has halted manufacturing at two Texas facilities, while Samsung and Infineon Technologies have both shut down one, Bloomberg reported.

Temperatures in Texas reached -18C (0F) earlier this week, the coldest recorded in the state in more than 30 years.

The energy grid has faced a surge of demand as people try to keep warm.

There have also been water shortages due to power blackouts at treatment facilities and pipes bursting due to freezing.

US President Joe Biden earlier approved a state of emergency for Texas, which has been blanketed by snow and ice since the storm swept in at the weekend.

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