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What is a Microchip?

How do microchips work? How are microchips made?

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Jack Kilby invented the integrated circuit at Texas Instruments in 1958.

Jack Kilby invented the integrated circuit at Texas Instruments in 1958. Comprised of only a transistor and other components on a slice of germanium, Kilby's invention, 7/16-by-1/16-inches in size, revolutionized the electronics industry.

Texas Instruments
By definition the integrated circuit aka microchip is a set of interconnected electronic components such as transistors and resistors, that are etched or imprinted on a onto a tiny chip of a semiconducting material, such as silicon or germanium.

  • History of Integrated Circuit
    The integrated circuit otherwise known as "The Chip" or microchip was invented by both Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce.
  • Biography of Jack Kilby
    Jack Kilby and Texas Instruments received U.S. patent # 3,643,138 for miniaturized electronic circuits.
  • Biography of Robert Noyce
    Robert Noyce is a computer industry pioneer and Intel cofounder. Robert Noyce is credited as being the co-inventor of the integrated circuit aka microchip along with Jack Kilby.

How Microchips Are Made

Microchips are built layer by layer on a wafer of the semiconductor material silicon. The layers are built by a process called photolithography involving chemicals, gases, and light.

First a layer of silicon dioxide is deposited on the surface of the silicon wafer, that layer is covered with a photosensitive chemical called a photoresist.

The photoresist is exposed to ultraviolet light shined through a pattern, which only hardens the areas exposed to the light. Gas is used to etch into the remaining soft areas. This process repeated and modified builds the component circuitry.

Conducting paths between the components are created by overlaying the chip with a thin layer of metal (aluminum). The photolithography and etching processes are used to remove the metal leaving only the conducting pathways.

The websites and videos below describe the process in detail.

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