The Physics
Factbook
An encyclopedia of scientific essays

# Number of Transistors on an Integrated Circuit

Bibliographic Entry Result
(w/surrounding text)
Standardized
Result
Millman, Jacob Ph.D & Halkias, Christos C. Ph.D. Integrated Electronics analog digital circuits and systems. Ed. Frederick Emmons Terman. New York: McGraw-Hill Inc,1972: 197. "We demonstrate in this chapter that a reasonable area under which a component (say, a transistor) is fabricated is 50 mils2. Hence each chip (each integrated circuit) contains 50 separate components, and there are 50 x 400=20,000 components/in.² on each wafer." 3000/cm2
(1972)
"Integrated Circuit". Microsoft Encarta Reference Library 2004. 1993-2003. "In large-scale integration (LSI), as many as 5000 circuit elements, such as resistors and transistors, are combined in a square of silicon measuring about1.3 cm (.5 in) on a side." 3000/cm2
(2003)
Kang, Sung-Mo & Leblebici, Yusuf. CMOS Integrated Circuits Analysis and Design. 3rd. ed. McGraw-Hill Professional 2002: 2. "State-of-the-art ULSI chips, such as DEC Alpha or Intel Pentium, contain 10 to 100 million transistors." 107 ~ 108/cm2
(2002)
"Integrated Circuits".The illustrated Science and Invention Encyclopedia. Volume 10. New York: H.S. Stuttman. 1974, 1976, 1977. 1273. "Typically the chip may be .005 inch (1.27 mm) square by .01 inch (.025 mm) thick, though modern LSI (large scale integrated) devices may measure up to 0.25 inch (6.4 mm) square and may contain the equivalent of many thousands of individual transistors." 2000/cm2
(1977)

An integrated circuit (IC) is a minuscule electronic circuit that consists of active and passive components as well as interconnections. These components include transistors, diodes, capacitors and resistors. ICs are made out of crystalline silicon wafers. Several hundred identical integrated circuits are made on a thin wafer that is a couple centimeters wide, and this wafer is then sliced into many chips. In large-scale integration (LSI), as many as 5000 semiconductors such as resistors and transistors are combined in a square of silicon 1.3 centimeters on each side. The interconnections of an integrated circuit are made up of semiconductor films and are insulated from the other parts of the circuit by layers of dielectric material. Examples of integrated circuits include DEC Alpha and the Intel Pentium chips.

The IC is based mainly on the transistor. The transistor, a semiconductor device, was developed as an alternative to the old vacuum tube. Since the transistor could be made much smaller, it was much more convenient to use. As a result, the transistor became the main amplifying device in almost all electronic equipment.

ICs are significant not only because they are tiny but also because they are reliable and relatively cheap. In fact, because of these characteristics, integrated circuits have made possible the development of the calculator, the personal computer, the digital watch, and the video game console. They have also been used to improve older technology that was developed before it such as the television and the radio.

In the early 1960s, Moore's law was proposed which predicated that the number of transistors in an IC doubles every two years. Thus, it was to no surprise that after 1970, the number of transistors in an IC started to increase exponentially. In fact, in 2006, chips were created that contained up to 100 million transistors per square centimeter.

Bibliographic Entry Result
(w/surrounding text)
Standardized
Result
Cutnell & Johnson. Physics 3rd Edition. Wiley, 1995: 763. "Today it is possible to combine arrays of thousands of transistors, diodes, resistors, and capacitors on a tiny chip of silicon that usually measures less than a centimeter on a side." ~1000
"Computer." Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2001. http://encarta.msn.com, Microsoft Corporation, 1997-2001. "Modern microprocessors can contain more than 20 million transistors." >20,000,000
Sivitz, Laura. "When the Chips are Down." Science News, Vol 158, No. 2. 11/25/00: 350. "Today's computer circuits are packed with transistors- the newest Intel Pentium chip has 28 million of them." 28,000,000
Encyclopedia Britannica,Vol. 9. Encyclopedia Britannica, 1977: 661. "This integrated circuit contains approximately 3,000 transistors." 3,000
"Intel Announces Tiniest Transistor Yet." The Oregonian, 12/11/00. "The end result, the semiconductor giant said, will be a thumbnail-size computer chip with 400 million transistors operating at speeds up to 10 gigahertz."
400,000,000
Markoff, John. "Researchers Make an Ultra-Tiny Chip." New York Times, 06/10/01: A42. "That is more than 23 times the number of transistors used in Intel's current state-of-the-art Pentium 4 microprocessor, which has 42 million transistors and is capable of executing 1.7 billion instructions a second." 42,000,000

Integrated circuits are found in every technological device that we use today, from computers and calculators to watches and cellular phones. An integrated circuit (IC) is a tiny silicon chip, less than a centimeter in width. Among other things, the IC contains arrays of transistors that help process data. The more transistors there are in a circuit, the faster the data is processed. Modern technology has allowed data to be processed rapidly by increasing the number of transistors and decreasing the size of the IC.

The number of transistors has thus been changing over the years. In the 1970s, an IC might have approximately 3,000 transistors. Now, the number of transistors has reached 42 million. A theory developed in 1965, called Moore's Law, which predicted that the number of transistors in an IC would double every 18 months. So far, the predictions have proven fairly accurate, and according to scientists, they should remain accurate until the year 2014. What shall happen afterwards can only be guessed at.

Serafina Shishkova -- 2001