Silicon Transistors and the Electronics Age
Silicon quickly became the material of choice for the semiconductor transistor, not only because of its fundamentally superior electrical properties, but because it was also far less expensive to produce than the vacuum tube. The meteoric rise of the silicon transistor, and subsequently integrated circuits, continued throughout the 1970s and 1980s. “Moore’s Law” – which called for a doubling of the transistor’s performance with a lowering cost approximately every 18 months, created a synchronized drumbeat of new products with higher performance AND lower cost to the delight of the consumer. And, for power conversion, it was the silicon-based power MOSFET, which was the core of this rise.
As with the vacuum tube, silicon power MOSFETs have now reached the end of the road in delivering better performance at a consistently declining cost. Fortunately, the quest for the ideal switch that has infinitely fast switching speed, no electrical resistance, and a lower cost, has not slowed and new base materials upon which to build high-performance power conversion transistors and integrated circuits have emerged.