Have you ever wanted to learn more about Integrated Circuits?

Despite the complexity that is often attached to integrated circuits, semi-conductors, diodes and the like, these subjects are easily understood. As with all fields, integrated circuits can be as simplistic or complicated as you choose to make them.

An integrated circuit is simply a circuit fashioned out of semiconductor material. The manufacturing of an integrated circuit involves the diffusion of elements into semiconductor material. To be clear, the advent of the integrated circuit is nothing more than the combination of diodes, transistors and/or capacitors. What combination of components is chosen depends on the specific application. A transistor, for instance, has the ability to toggle power or current, while a diode throttles electrical current depending on the existence or absence of a specified condition.

Image of an Integrated Circuit

Image of an Integrated Circuit

Integrated circuits make up a majority of the entrails of many electronic components we use daily. Devices from mobile phones to computers and microwaves harness this old and developing technology.

The advent of today’s integrated circuits is largely the outgrowth of the since outmoded discovery of the vacuum tube. Fundamental to this transition from the use of vacuum tubes to the development of today’s integrated circuits is the role of the transistor. Through experimentation, engineers discovered that placing transistors onto a chip was more advantageous in both form and function over the use of vacuum tubes.

According to patent records, in 1949 Werner Jacobi filed the first patent for what later transitioned into the first integrated circuit. However, it was not until 1958 that an employee of Texas Instruments was able to create a fully functioning integrated circuit.

Integrated circuits are especially advantageous because they are relatively cheap and present obvious performance gains. The production of an integrated circuit is far less economically taxing than yesteryear’s components. Equally important is the integrated circuit’s ability to perform its functions efficiently, while requiring relatively little by way of power and electricity.

Microchips and Circuit Boards

Microchips and Circuit Boards

Around the time of its inception, the first generation of integrated circuits were hardly able to accommodate the monstrous number of transistors commonly found on today’s integrated circuits. Rather, early integrated circuits only included up to ten transistors. It was not until the 1980s that scientists and electrical engineers were able to place hundreds of thousands of transistors on an integrated circuit, with the billion-transistor milestone being achieved in early 2000.

Integrated Circuit Classifications

Although there are an infinite number of integrated circuits, each geared toward a different application, integrated circuits can be brooken down into three main classifications. An integrated circuit may be analog, digital or a combination of the two.

An analog integrated circuit is characterized by its ability to grapple with the inflow of continued signals. Digital integrated circuits, instead, are known for their high-speed ability, while having low dissipation. Digital integrated circuits function by harnessing binary language. Lastly, an integrated circuit can have both an analog and digital component. Integrated circuits containing both analog and digital components on the same chip are classified as mixed.

Integrated Circuit Fabrication

The process of creating an integrated circuit typically begins with a semiconductor substrate, typically composed of silicon. The substrate ranges in size depending on application. Integrated circuits typically contain several different layers, each of which is usually given a distinct color. Each layer has a different function. A diffusion layer, for instance, specifies where dopants are diffused. A polysilicon layer, instead, defines the conductors. Lastly, a contact layer specifies the links between the various layers. You can search for integrated circuit parts here.

Image on an

Integrated Circuit

The fabrication process itself typically involves three distinct steps: imaging, deposition and etching. The manufacturing process takes place in a fabrication facility. The processes that take place in the manufacturing plant are highly automated and involve a substantial monetary investment.

The importance of a “clean room” becomes obvious in light of the destruction small particulate matter can cause. Small objects as insignificant as a small amount of dust can destroy a chip. As such, facilities where integrated circuits are produced are heavily restricted. Anyone who enters the clean room is required to wear special gear that conceals their body. The typical “bunny suit” provides a substantial barrier between the person and the integrated circuits, eliminating the concern over contamination. Industrial grade air purifiers and filtration devices are employed to mitigate the production of dust and other debris.

The Legal Framework Surrounding Integrated Circuits

As the manufacturing of integrated circuits evolved, the development and application of specific legal principles also followed. Integrated circuits usually fall within the genre of law known as intellectual property, due to the fact that integrated circuits are highly customized to particular applications. The mere design of a facility to produce an integrated circuit in any sizable quantity, let alone the actual production of the circuit itself, is a substantial undertaking. Facilities for producing integrated circuits often cost billions of dollars. As such, institutions defend their intellectual property forcefully. Given that the production of integrated circuits can result in enormous profits, the design, production and sale of integrated circuits may involve a great deal of litigation.

The Downfall of Vacuum Tubes

Although the advent of vacuum tubes were particularly notable during their time and led to further developments, vacuum tubes were riddled with problems. Vacuum tubes were subject to being compromised by gas due to elements within the tube. The pollution of the tube by gas led to severe degradation of the vacuum tube’s ability to emit electrons. The gradual seepage of gas also compromised the tube. An additional problem involves the fracture of the wire, which was a regular result of repeated power cycles.

Among the most prominent reliability concern was caused by air seepage into the vacuum tube. The seepage of air often resulted in the oxygen degrading the cathode, thereby limiting the vacuum tube’s lifespan. Lastly, overheating was also a concern.

 



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