Kurt Petersen, 2019 IEEE Medal of Honor Recipient, Is Mr. MEMS

An ink stain on the floor led to a lifetime of building micro devices and sensors and macro companies

12 min read
photo of Kurt Petersen
Photo: Peter Adams

It was 1975, and Kurt Petersen was a smart young researcher, fresh out of the Ph.D. program in electrical engineering at MIT and working in the optics group at IBM's Almaden, Calif., research center. And he was bored. Roaming the massive complex one day, he came across a huge black stain on the linoleum tiles of an otherwise nondescript hallway. That stain would change his life and the course of an entire industry.

In search of the source of the stain—he was that bored—Petersen walked into the nearest lab. The stain, he found out, came from an ink spill. The lab was developing inkjet printer nozzles by etching precise holes in silicon.

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The State of the Transistor in 3 Charts

In 75 years, it’s become tiny, mighty, ubiquitous, and just plain weird

3 min read
A photo of 3 different transistors.
iStockphoto
LightGreen

The most obvious change in transistor technology in the last 75 years has been just how many we can make. Reducing the size of the device has been a titanic effort and a fantastically successful one, as these charts show. But size isn’t the only feature engineers have been improving.

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