The Diverse Ecology of Electronic Materials

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Silicon has been the dominant material in microelectronics for a half century. Other materials, however, have subsidiary roles in microelectronics manufacturing. A few materials have even been promoted as replacements for silicon. Yet because of silicon’s dominance, none of these alternatives has gone from bench to brand; nor could any of them progress from brand to bench. For these reasons, historians have paid little attention to silicon and almost none to other microelectronics materials. I show, however, that we can better understand how the organization of the semiconductor (silicon) industry has changed over time by examining alternative microelectronic materials. I do so by presenting two case studies: one of a superconducting computing program at IBM, the most likely candidate to overthrow silicon in the ‘70s; the other of carbon fullerenes, the most likely candidates to overthrow silicon today.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFrom Bench to Brand and Back: The Co-Shaping of Materials and Chemists in the Twentieth Century
EditorsPierre Teissier, Cyrus C. M. Mody, Brigitte van Tiggelen
Place of PublicationNantes
PublisherCahiers Francois Viète
Number of pages25
VolumeSérie III
ISBN (Print)978-2-86939-244-3
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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