The High School Student Who’s Building His Own Integrated Circuits

Sam Zeloof has turned his parent’s garage into a 1970s-era fab

3 min read
Photo of Sam Zeloof
Photo: Beth Deene

Electronics enthusiasts like being able to make things themselves. In IEEE Spectrum’s Hands On column, we’ve detailed how readers can make their own solder reflow ovens, conductive ink, and synthetic aperture radars. But making DIY integrated circuits seemed impossibly out of reach. After all, building a modern fab is astronomically expensive: For example, in 2017 Intel announced it was investing US $7 billion to complete a facility for making chips with 7-nanometer-scale features. But Sam Zeloof was not deterred. This 17-year-old high school student has started making chips in his garage, albeit with technology that’s a few steps back along the curve of Moore’s Law.

Zeloof says he has been working on his garage fab, located in his home near Flemington, N.J., for about a year. He began thinking about how to make chips as his “way of trying to learn what’s going on inside semiconductors and transistors. I started reading old books and old patents because the newer books explain processes that require very expensive equipment.”

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The Transistor at 75

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

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

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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