- A typical car contains something like 30,000 discrete parts, if you count down to the smallest individual screw. By comparison, a typical microprocessor has around (to make the numbers work out conveniently) 3 billion transistors. That's a factor of a million more constituents. Bear in mind that essentially all of those transistors work, without fail, for a decade or more. (When was the last time you actually had a processor failure, rather than a power supply or hard drive issue?). Imagine taking a million cars, and claiming that they will all run, flawlessly, with no broken parts, for a decade.
- Parallel manufacturing is a wonderful thing. If you built the 3 billion transistors serially at a rate of one per second, it would take around 95 years to put together a processor.
- There is a famous study that proved that Kansas is actually flatter than a pancake. Perfect flatness would correspond with their flatness metric equalling 1, and they found that Kansas has a flatness of 0.9997. By that measure, a 300 mm silicon wafer used to fabricate chips would have a flatness on the order of 1 - (30 nm/300mm) = 1 - 10-7. If your dining room table was that flat, the typical height of a surface defect would be well under the wavelength of visible light. If Kansas was that flat, the tallest feature in the state would be a few cm high.
- The worst silicon purity acceptable for Si electronics processing is around 0.1 parts per billion. That means that a single impurity atom in such silicon is more rare than, well, you as a member of the population of the earth.
- We have the ability to position particular devices with (roughly) few nm precision and accuracy on a processor of cm scale. That's equivalent to being able to place an item on your desk in a particular place to within about 1/50th the diameter of a human hair.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Quantitatively, how amazing are modern electronics technologies and materials?
I've talked before about how condensed matter/materials physics/engineering is so ubiquitous that it somehow fades into the background, and people don't appreciate how truly wondrous it is. I thought I'd compile a few stats to try and drive this home.
Posted by Douglas Natelson at 10:22 AM