History of Semiconductors

A chip, a transistor, and an LED. How Things Work - 2005

Semiconductors were being studied in laboratories as early as the 1830's. The materials were usually poor conductors if heated and often carried photoelectric properties. (Electrical production by shining light on the material.) Soon, this property of changing conductivity would become of vital importance to the world of electronics and communications. (Micron) Common semiconductors include silicon, zinc and germanium; however, silicon is by far the most widely implemented due to its abundance. Also, its reasonable speed, simple processing, and useful temperature range make it a good choice among other semiconductors. (Wikipedia - Semiconductor Device) This element has been used to make cast iron, bricks, and pottery, and glass, but it found a new technological purpose. Silicon is extracted from sand and altered using small amounts of impurities (more on that later) so the electrical current across the silicon can be regulated depending on the polarity of the electrical charge applied to it. Before semiconductors (1600's to 1800's), the vacuum tube dominated electronics. Radios, and even computers used vacuum tubes in their circuits. However, semiconductors in the form of transistors, replaced vacuum tubes because they were smaller, lighter, less power consuming, more durable, more reliable, and generated less heat. (Xiao) Semiconductors are now used in almost any electronic component imaginable.

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Created by George S. Walker V 2005.