Why Are Semiconductors Important?

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For most of history, the science of a topic has arrived a very long time after its technology. In the past the effect if scuebce (if any) has been to explain and sometimes to improve the empirical results already achieved by engineers, and to suggest new areas for invention. For example, electricity was used to send signals across the Atlantic long before the electron was discovered. However, in the past 50 years, science leads technology. In semiconductor electronics, understanding has come before its practical application.

Computers depend on the silicon chip and semiconductors technology is driving innovation. There is increasing use of very thin layers of material, grown as single crystals on the surface of the main semiconductor wafer. The sophisticated use of such epilayers has made possible many new applications. E.g. electrons can be trapped within these ultra-thin layers, known as quantum wells. It is now also possible to perform engineering at the atomic scale. Such nanotechnology is one of the most exciting growth areas of semiconductor technology.

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