Jack S. Kilby


The integrated circuit

An integrated circuit, chip, is built up of transistors and other components in a single piece of semiconductor material, where they are connected together with thin metallic lines. In 1958, Kilby showed that it was possible to fabricate a simple integrated circuit in germanium, a commonly used semiconductor at that time. At about the same time, Robert Noyce described how an integrated circuit can be made in silicon using silicon dioxide as the insulator and aluminium for the metallic lines. This combination was to be the technology of choice for years to come. Kilby and Noyce are considered to be co-inventors of the integrated circuit. Robert Noyce died in 1990.


From a few to millions

By connecting a large number of components, each performing simple operations, an integrated circuit that performs very complex tasks can be built. Therefore, the degree of integration increased rapidly during the years after the invention of the first integrated circuit. This evolution was noted back in the 1960s by Gordon Moore. The empirical law he formulated states that the number of devices on a single chip doubles every 18 months, for the same price. After nearly forty years "Moore's law" still holds and the largest integrated circuits of today contain more than a hundred million transistors!


Today's integrated circuits

The integrated circuit is the basic product of the semiconductor industry. Its complex fabrication requires many steps such as silicon dioxide formation, patterning using photolithography, implantation, etching, and deposition of polysilicon and metals. The semiconductor industry produces many kinds of chip for today's electronic products.


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