Celebrating Silicon: Its Success, Hidden History, and Next Act
Filler, Michael A.
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The history of silicon is usually told as a history of electronic materials and devices. However, it is better told as a history of manufacturing innovation. This talk will take a journey through the manufacturing innovations that transformed silicon from its humble beginnings as the most abundant metal in Earth’s crust to the enabler of the computer chips that underpin the modern economy. The journey begins with the extraction of silicon from sand and its processing into the most compositionally pure and structurally perfect human-made material. It continues through the mid-20th century breakthroughs that allowed fabrication and interconnection of high-quality electronic devices to form integrated circuits. It is from this perspective that we can most easily appreciate silicon’s impact on modern society and why it is finding increasing utility in technology areas as diverse as renewable energy, environmental sensing, and augmented reality. It is also from this perspective that we can understand silicon’s limitations and begin to see what innovations might be necessary to enable silicon’s next act.