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Internal Combustion Used to Make Thin-Film Transistors

Combustible mix of metal and oxygen could be path to flexible electronics

3 min read

18 April 2011—A team of scientists has developed chemical solutions that use their own internal heat to fuse metal and oxygen atoms and form semiconducting films at low temperatures. This method could pave the way for cheaper next-generation thin-film and flexible electronics. The work, which describes the results for films of several different compositions, appeared on Sunday in the journal Nature Materials.

The thin-film electronics behind today’s flat-panel displays are made of chaotically structured, or amorphous, silicon. But amorphous silicon is reaching its performance limits, and a new class of materials—amorphous oxides— will soon be making its commercial debut. Electrons in amorphous oxides can zoom through the material dozens of times as fast as they do in amorphous silicon, making for faster electronics. And unlike amorphous silicon, oxides carry current the same way in every direction, making them better candidates for bendable electronics  like flexible solar arrays and roll-up displays.

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The First Million-Transistor Chip: the Engineers’ Story

Intel’s i860 RISC chip was a graphics powerhouse

21 min read
Twenty people crowd into a cubicle, the man in the center seated holding a silicon wafer full of chips

Intel's million-transistor chip development team

In San Francisco on Feb. 27, 1989, Intel Corp., Santa Clara, Calif., startled the world of high technology by presenting the first ever 1-million-transistor microprocessor, which was also the company’s first such chip to use a reduced instruction set.

The number of transistors alone marks a huge leap upward: Intel’s previous microprocessor, the 80386, has only 275,000 of them. But this long-deferred move into the booming market in reduced-instruction-set computing (RISC) was more of a shock, in part because it broke with Intel’s tradition of compatibility with earlier processors—and not least because after three well-guarded years in development the chip came as a complete surprise. Now designated the i860, it entered development in 1986 about the same time as the 80486, the yet-to-be-introduced successor to Intel’s highly regarded 80286 and 80386. The two chips have about the same area and use the same 1-micrometer CMOS technology then under development at the company’s systems production and manufacturing plant in Hillsboro, Ore. But with the i860, then code-named the N10, the company planned a revolution.

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