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GaAsing Up Cellphones

Gallium arsenide transistors could power tiny, blazingly fast multimedia handsets

5 min read

A practically unnoticed announcement in January from Freescale Semiconductor Inc., in Austin, Texas, set the small community of researchers who study exotic semiconductor transistors buzzing. A group of Freescale researchers led by Matthias Passlack had fabricated metal oxide semiconductor field-effect transistors (MOSFETs), the types that drive just about every silicon integrated circuit, using gallium arsenide (GaAs) and a novel gate dielectric.

The rest of us should be buzzing, too. If Freescale and other research groups can overcome some significant manu--facturing challenges, this inno---vation could lead to a cellphone-on-a-chip and instant analog-to-digital conversion. It may even enable chip makers to improve processor speed and performance when transistors on silicon chips can be miniaturized no further.

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The Transistor at 75

The past, present, and future of the modern world’s most important invention

2 min read
A photo of a birthday cake with 75 written on it.
Lisa Sheehan

Seventy-five years is a long time. It’s so long that most of us don’t remember a time before the transistor, and long enough for many engineers to have devoted entire careers to its use and development. In honor of this most important of technological achievements, this issue’s package of articles explores the transistor’s historical journey and potential future.

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