An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit (also referred to as IC, chip, or microchip) is an electronic circuit manufactured by the patterned diffusion of trace elements into the surface of a thin substrate of semiconductor material. Additional materials are deposited and patterned to form interconnections between semiconductor devices.
Integrated circuits are used in virtually all electronic equipment today and have revolutionized the world of electronics. Computers, mobile phones, and other digital appliances are now inextricable parts of the structure of modern societies, made possible by the low cost of production of integrated circuits
ICs were made possible by experimental discoveries showing that semiconductor devices could perform the functions of vacuum tubes and by mid-20th-century technology advancements in semiconductor device fabrication. The integration of large numbers of tiny transistors into a small chip was an enormous improvement over the manual assembly of circuits using discrete electronic components. The integrated circuit's mass production capability, reliability, and building-block approach to circuit design ensured the rapid adoption of standardized ICs in place of designs using discrete transistors.
There are two main advantages of ICs over discrete circuits: cost and performance. Cost is low because the chips, with all their components, are printed as a unit by photolithography rather than being constructed one transistor at a time. Furthermore, much less material is used to construct a packaged IC die than to construct a discrete circuit. Performance is high because the components switch quickly and consume little power (compared to their discrete counterparts) as a result of the small size and close proximity of the components. As of 2006, typical chip areas range from a few square millimeters to around 350 mm2, with up to 1 million transistors per mm2.
Integrated circuit originally referred to a miniaturized electronic circuit consisting of semiconductor devices, as well as passive components bonded to a substrate or circuit board.This configuration is now commonly referred to as a hybrid integrated circuit. Integrated circuit has since come to refer to the single-piece circuit construction originally known as a monolithic integrated circuit.
Early developments of the integrated circuit go back to 1949, when the German engineer Werner Jacobi (Siemens AG) filed a patent for an integrated-circuit-like semiconductor amplifying device showing five transistors on a common substrate arranged in a 2-stage amplifier arrangement. Jacobi disclosed small and cheap hearing aids as typical industrial applications of his patent. A commercial use of his patent has not been reported.
The idea of the integrated circuit was conceived by a radar scientist working for the Royal Radar Establishment of the British Ministry of Defence, Geoffrey W.A. Dummer (1909–2002). Dummer presented the idea to the public at the Symposium on Progress in Quality Electronic Components in Washington, D.C. on May 7, 1952. He gave many symposia publicly to propagate his ideas, and unsuccessfully attempted to build such a circuit in 1956.
A precursor idea to the IC was to create small ceramic squares (wafers), each one containing a single miniaturized component. Components could then be integrated and wired into a bidimensional or tridimensional compact grid. This idea, which looked very promising in 1957, was proposed to the US Army by Jack Kilby, and led to the short-lived Micromodule Program (similar to 1951's Project Tinkertoy). However, as the project was gaining momentum, Kilby came up with a new, revolutionary design: the IC.
Robert Noyce credited Kurt Lehovec of Sprague Electric for the principle of p-n junction isolation caused by the action of a biased p-n junction (the diode) as a key concept behind the IC.
Jack Kilby's original integrated circuitNewly employed by Texas Instruments, Kilby recorded his initial ideas concerning the integrated circuit in July 1958, successfully demonstrating the first working integrated example on September 12, 1958. In his patent application of February 6, 1959, Kilby described his new device as “a body of semiconductor material ... wherein all the components of the electronic circuit are completely integrated.” Kilby won the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics for his part of the invention of the integrated circuit. Kilby's work was named an IEEE Milestone in 2009.
Noyce also came up with his own idea of an integrated circuit half a year later than Kilby. His chip solved many practical problems that Kilby's had not. Produced at Fairchild Semiconductor, it was made of silicon, whereas Kilby's chip was made of germanium.
Fairchild Semiconductor was also home of the first silicon gate IC technology with self-aligned gates, which stands as the basis of all modern CMOS computer chips. The technology was developed by Italian physicist Federico Faggin in 1968, who later joined Intel in order to develop the very first Central Processing Unit (CPU) on one chip (Intel 4004), for which he received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2010.