What is a Semiconductor?

Semiconductors are the engines that drive technological progress and inspire innovation.

Modern-day semiconductors are billions of transistors joined together on a tiny piece of glass-like material called silicon. Each transistor, smaller than the cells in your body, works together by turning on and off over 100 billion times per second to allow electricity flow. It is this electricity flow that determines the behavior of the semiconductor and its application.

Semiconductors are essential for the operation of all modern electronic devices—and as their power, complexity, and sophistication have grown, so too have their uses. Semiconductors power our laptops, smartphones, and tablets. They are responsible for many of the modern advancements made in car electronics, avionics, and medical equipment; and semiconductors have enabled our white goods, appliances, and lighting to achieve unprecedented gains in efficiencies. Semiconductors are the essential building blocks that are powering modern technology.

Top Innovations since the wheel:

Printing Press, Electricity, Penicillin, Semiconductor

When The Atlantic asked scientists, historians, and technologists to rank the top innovations since the wheel, the semiconductor came in fourth—just behind the printing press, electricity, and penicillin, but ahead of eyeglasses, paper, and the steam engine.

Transistors are the building blocks of semiconductors – so how do they work?

From Sand to Silicon – the making of a semiconductor