Who Invented the Silicon Wafer, and How?


May 11, 2015

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The silicon wafer has been a truly transformative invention in technology. Something that has been in existence for only about 60 years plays a role in much of our lives. Silicon wafers hold the brains behind our phones, our appliances, some of our lights, our security and even our vehicles.But when you sit and think about that silicon wafer, does it occur to you that such a thing does not just come naturally? You know that those things are manufactured and not things you find around every corner or under any average rock? And from there, do you wonder how the silicon wafer came to be? Who thought of silicon as a semiconductor and as the best material on which to integrate small circuits?While it is a difficult question to answer, we’re glad you asked. It is a difficult question to answer because the idea of using silicon as the semiconducting material was more of a trial-and-error idea rather than some brilliant concept from a scientist. The very first integrated circuits were invented by ideas from scientists Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce. The two did not work together (that we know of), but instead worked at two different semiconductor companies. Kilby was exploring the concept of making electric circuitry in a smaller size, and he came up with a system of circuits that rest upon a piece of semiconducting material, while Noyce came along just a few months later and researched the concept of integrating circuits directly into the material and etching away the unnecessary parts to help the circuit run more efficiently. The idea of integrated circuits was a quantum leap from vacuum tubes of the very earliest computers, and these smaller circuits paved the way for the supercomputers that took up an entire room to be greatly reduced to desktop, laptop and to the size of tablets and smartphones. And beyond?The scientists figured out a column of the periodic table of elements that has elements with semiconducting capacity, and the first “wafers” were actually squares made from germanium. After a while, silicon was used when it was discovered to have more flexible and dynamic properties so that it could be molded and its conducting capacity manipulated more easily so circuitry can ultimately get smaller and smaller.When you are ready to purchase these transformatively innovative electronic tools, check out our inventory of silicon and germanium wafers for your manufacturing needs. We have what you seek and services and prices that blaze their own trails.