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ICs

INTEGRATED CIRCUITS

At Texas Instruments, Jack Kilby recorded his initial ideas concerning the integrated circuit in July 1958, successfully demonstrating the first working integrated example on 12 September 1958. In his patent application of 6 February 1959, Kilby described his new device as "a body of semiconductor material … wherein all the components of the electronic circuit are completely integrated." The first customer for the new invention was the US Air Force and each sold for $100.

Half a year after Kilby, Robert Noyce at Fairchild Semiconductor developed his own idea of an integrated circuit that solved many practical problems Kilby's had not. Noyce's design was made of silicon, whereas Kilby's chip was made of germanium. 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.

In less than 60 years IC’s have progressed at a staggering pace. For almost two decades Semiconductor ICs have been fabricated in a planar process which includes three key process steps – imaging, deposition and etching. The main process steps are supplemented by doping and cleaning.

Integrated circuits are composed of many overlapping layers, each defined by photolithography, and normally shown in different colors. Some layer’s mark where various dopants are diffused into the substrate (called diffusion layers), some define where additional ions are implanted (implant layers), some define the conductors (polysilicon or metal layers), and some define the connections between the conducting layers (via or contact layers). All components are constructed from a specific combination of these layers.

Mono-crystal silicon wafers (or for special applications, silicon on sapphire or gallium arsenide wafers) are “grown” and used as the substrate. Photolithography is used to mark different areas of the substrate to be doped or to have polysilicon, insulators or metal (typically aluminum) tracks deposited on them.

 

The wafers as large as 300 mm diameter are cut from the single Mono-crystal and four companies in the world have developed and manufacture daily production single circuits where the components are spaced at 10 Nm as shown above. The cost of a facility manufacture such wafers is $3 Billion.

As of 2015, typical chip areas range from a few square millimeters to around 450 mm2, with up to 15 million transistors per mm2.

Integrated circuits are used in virtually all electronic equipment today and have revolutionized the world of electronics. Computers, mobile phones, and other digital home appliances are now inextricable parts of the structure of modern societies, made possible by the low cost of ICs. The global daily production of IC’s now exceeds 1 billion components.

These highly sophisticated IC’s come onto a market where counterfeits and clones proliferate at alarming rates with staggering levels of sophistication. The ECCC e-Labelling technology - backed by an IEC international specification - offers a low-cost solution. Today, all major IC OCM’s who identity their components with laser marking after fabrication and testing – can now at the same time, with minimum disruption to their manufacturing process, incorporate the highly encrypted e-Label as a Unique Device Identifier. This can be used to identify the true provenance of the component, and distinguish the real component from a fake.

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