Since first developed in the early sixties, silicon chip technology has made vast leaps forward. From a rudimentary circuit with a mere handful of transistors, the chip has evolved into a technological miracle, packing millions of bits of information on a surface no larger than a human thumbnail. And most experts predict that in the near future, we will see chips with over a billion bits. At the same time, this revolution in microelectronics has sparked a dramatic change in the way we live. An integral part of the computer ...
Since first developed in the early sixties, silicon chip technology has made vast leaps forward. From a rudimentary circuit with a mere handful of transistors, the chip has evolved into a technological miracle, packing millions of bits of information on a surface no larger than a human thumbnail. And most experts predict that in the near future, we will see chips with over a billion bits. At the same time, this revolution in microelectronics has sparked a dramatic change in the way we live. An integral part of the computer industry, the microchip is found in everything from lasers, fax machines, and satellites to greeting cards and children's toys. And yet few people have any idea how chips work, or how so much information can be captured in such a miniscule space. Now, in The Quantum Dot, physicist Richard Turton provides a clear, informative look at the science that lies behind the modern revolution in microelectronics and offers an intriguing glimpse of the possible future of this rapidly evolving field. Turton illuminates the development of the microchip, in a discussion that ranges from a primer on atoms and electrons, to the properties of semiconductors (most notably, silicon), to the structure of the transistor. We learn how researchers have managed to pack the tiny silicon chip with more and more bits, and we get a state-of-the-art look at the microelectronic industry today, from the newest chip materials (such as gallium arsenide, a much faster material than silicon, used in the recently released Cray 3 supercomputer) to the exotic world of high-temperature superconductors. Perhaps most interesting, Turton offers a provocative glimpse of the future of microelectronics. Here readers enter the strange realm where quantum theory prevails and where physical events contradict our intuitive perceptions. Turton shows how researchers are leaving the transistor far behind as they struggle to exploit quantum effects to create incredibly small and fast devices, such as "designer atoms" and the quantum dot. He concludes that the range of future possibilities are immense, including devices in which electrons behave not as particles but as waves, and computers in which there are no electrical signals, only beams of light. Here then is an amazing scientific--and economic--success story, told with clarity and expertise. It will fascinate anyone curious about where modern technology is headed and what the world might look like when it gets there.
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