The billion dollar modern solid state device industry that we see today, it all started back in 1901 with a Bangladeshi 42 year’s old scientist patenting the use of a crystal rectifier for detecting the radio waves. In 1894 he was the first person ever to use a crystal as a radio wave detector in his microwave experiment. He wrote in his essay Adrishya Alok (Invisible Light), “The invisible light can easily pass through brick walls, buildings etc. Therefore, messages can be transmitted by means of it without the mediation of wires.”
At the same period, in 1906 G.W. Pickard patented the thin wire pressed against crystal which is famous as the first ever radio detector solid state device named as the “Cat’s-whisker detector”. It was the first commercially available semiconductor device. During the First World War, it achieved its popularity as an AM audio signal demodulator. Soon after that, by 1920, it received a great commercial attention and became a household entertainment medium with millions of detectors in production. But from 1905, another race started by an English electrical engineer John Ambrose Fleming with his discovery of the simplest vacuum tube. Gradually it became the key component to the electronic circuit. So, after conquering almost 15 years, the “Cat’s-whisker detector” finally lost its glorious kingdom to the vacuum tube.
In electronics, a vacuum tube is a device that controls electric current flow in a high vacuum between electrodes to which an electric potential difference has been applied. This tube used the concept of the thermionic emission which was initially observed in 1853 by Edmond Becquerel. It is the thermally induced flow of charge carriers from a surface or over a potential-energy barrier. The simplest vacuum tube contains only a heated electron-emitting cathode and an anode. It widely used in the earlier development of the analog and earlier digital computers, radio, television, radar, sound recording etc. It had a great foundation in the technological industry that even in 21st century, in some important cases, it still cannot be replaced by any modern technology. But the old friend, solid state device, is back in the picture again. This time it is back with much more power and experience. Most of the applications of a vacuum tube were replaced by a solid state device called “Transistor”.
In 1947, William B. Shockley, from Bell laboratories, and his team found that under a suitable condition- electrons forms a potential barrier on the surface of the crystals and the flow of the electricity can be controlled like in the vacuum tubes by manipulating that barrier. Like a vacuum tube, signal amplification also can be done by it. But this device is much smaller, less expensive, more reliable and easier to work with than vacuum tube. Combining the words, transfer and resistor, they named it “Transistor”. This contribution later brought them the 1956 Noble Prize in physics. This is considered as one of the greatest innovation in the history of electronics. Today, many companies build billions of transistors every single year. One of the main advantages of transistor was that it reduced the size of a computer dramatically. But the largest part of a circuit was connecting wires between the devices. If those could be terminated, the size of the device would be smaller.
In 1958, Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments Inc., thought of a way to reduce circuit size further. He came up with a revolutionary idea of an integrated circuit. In his patent application he described his new device as “a body of semiconductor material … wherein all the components of the electronic circuit are completely integrated.” After few months of the Kilby’s patent Robert Noyce of Fairchild Semiconductor created another new integrated circuit which was more practical than the Kilby’s one. Noyce used the silicon chip in his design, where Kilby used the germanium chip. The basic idea of the both ICs was that they laid very thin paths of metal (usually aluminum or copper) directly on the same piece of material as their devices. These small paths acted as wires. With this technique an entire circuit could be “integrated” on a single piece of solid material and thus an IC was created. ICs can contain hundreds of thousands of individual transistors on a single piece of material the size of a pea. Based on the IC, the minicomputer was developed and computer then became famous in the scientific community. Kilby won the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics for his part in the invention of the integrated circuit and Fairchild Semiconductor was the home of the technology which is the basis of the all modern CMOS chip. The technology was developed by Italian physicist Federico Faggin in 1968, the same person who developed the first single-chip central processing unit (CPU) microprocessor, the Intel 4004 introduced in 1971.
Microprocessor was a new form of the integrated circuit which can interpret and execute the program instruction and handle the arithmetic operations too. It is device consists of the arithmetic unit, logic unit and central processing unit. The idea of the microprocessor came from the invention of the Large Scale Integration (LSI). LSI made it possible to pack thousands of transistors, diodes, and resistors onto a silicon chip less than 5 mm square! After that the circuit density even increased a more lot! Earlier in 1980 the Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) was introduced and 2010’s VLSI contains billions of circuit components with the same size of the LSI chip! This decreased the size of the computers a lot and leads the engineers to develop the earlier microcomputers that we are using today.
Development of the microcomputers dramatically increased the usage of the computer to the non-technical users. It had a great impact on education, communication, business, social interaction, music etc. Earlier in 1980’s it was predicted that, home computer will be used to perform various home task. Such as father will use computer for monitoring his business, mother will use to track the children’s health and children’s will use computer for acquiring knowledge from different sources. They also planned that, as the price of the electronics is very high, each family will afford a single multitasking computer and they will use it by time sharing! But the reality was really cruel as what they got is this barely functioning “home robot”.
The home computers of that times didn’t multitask. Even they didn’t have the enough power and memory to do any single task! It took another 10 years to mature the technology to build a graphical user interface. After that, the non-technical users started to fulfill their dreams. And the price of the electronics dramatically decreased that they didn’t have to share a single computer with the whole family, most of the family members now have the personal computers. With the help of the World Wide Web, communications are now much easier than ever. Children’s are using the computers to do their home works. Television programs are replaced by the internet based programs. Now electronic devices are the most essential thing in our daily life.
From a radio wave detector to the modern solid state electronics. It is a proud moment for us, Bangladeshis that it all started with our very own Bangladeshi scientist Jagadish Chandra Bose. He was ranked number 7 in BBC's 2004’s poll of the Greatest Bengali of all time. Sir Nevill Mott, Nobel Laureate in 1977 for his own contributions to solid-state electronics, remarked that "J.C. Bose was at least 60 years ahead of his time. In fact, he had anticipated the existence of P-type and N-type semiconductors." In an interview, Bose expressed his disinterest in commercial telegraphy and suggested others to use his research work. This is Jagadish Chandra Bose for whom scientific advancement comes first to personal gain.
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Link To Article: https://youth-journal.org/solid-state-devices-from-jagadish-chandra-bose-to-the-moder