Transistors – the “brains” of a chip – are tiny switches that control the flow of electricity, and there can literally be billions of these on a single integrated circuit. Demand for smaller, more powerful electronics is driving the development of new transistor architectures like 3D FinFET designs and the use of specialty materials such as high-k/metal gates. These in turn allow continued shrinking of device feature sizes. With dimensions for the latest transistors now at the atomic level, they are extremely challenging to manufacture. To ensure the high performance expected of these advanced devices, manufacturing capabilities that deliver exceptional precision and control in forming the tiny features are needed.
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Transistors are at the heart of our cherished electronics. Millions, or even billions, of these tiny switches go to work for us when we check our mobile phones, use our computers, start our automobiles, or play on our gaming consoles. But what exactly are transistors and how do they work? And how have they changed over the years?