Integrated Circuits

A few days ago I gave a presentation about Integrated Circuits. Here are some interesting facts about them that you might not know:

  • Modern microprocessors have up to 2.6 billion transistors on an area of only 512mm² and the numbers are still increasing. The transistors are printed on a single semiconductor device through a process called photolithography, similar to creating photographic films.
  • When Jack Kilby created the first Integrated Circuit in 1958, the prototype already worked perfectly.
  • Computer chips are made on the base of silicon which is made of sand. Theoretically every type of sand could be used, but usually only very pure forms of sand, called silica sands, are used.
  • At the time the silicon is ready to be manufactured to computer chips, it has a purity of 99.999999%. This can be compared to having only one grain of sugar in 10 buckets of sand.
  • The room in which the chips are created is called the “clean room”. It has a very tightly controlled environment, the air is filtered and people are only allowed to walk in with special overalls that cover all body parts.  The cleanliness is higher than in an operating room in a hospital.
  • After the manufacturing of a silicon wafer only ~60% of the chips (called dies) are properly functional (estimated number). Partially working dies are sold as lower-specification products. Intel used to make key chains out of the non-functional dies.

Intel key chain made of discarded CPU

Intel key chain (close up)

For those who want to have more detailed information: Here is the complete documentation about my presentation (it’s in English):
Integrated Circuits