How the Super-Transistor Works; The Solid-State Century; Scientific American Presents; by Baliga; 8 Page(s)
Although it is rarely acknowledged, not one but two distinct electronic revolutions were set in motion by the invention of the transistor 50 years ago at Bell Telephone Laboratories. The better known of the two has as its hallmark the trend toward miniaturization. This revolution was fundamentally transformed in the late 1950s, when Robert N. Noyce and Jack Kilby separately invented the integrated circuit, in which multiple transistors are fabricated within a single chip made up of layers of a semiconductor material. Years of this miniaturization trend have led to fingernail-size slivers of silicon containing millions of transistors, each measuring a few microns and consuming perhaps a millionth of a watt in operation.
The other, less well known, revolution is characterized by essentially the opposite trend: larger and larger transistors capable of handling greater amounts of electrical power. In this comparatively obscure, Brobdingnagian semiconductor world, the fundamental, transformative event occurred only a few years ago. And the golden era is just getting under way.