Science on Tap to follow the footsteps of semiconductor technology pioneers

March 12, 2015  

Mary Schott

Mark Lundstrom 
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Distinguished professor Mark Lundstrom will headline the next Science on Tap with a talk on semiconductor technology, the critical role Purdue University played in its early development and what's ahead.

The talk, "Along for the Ride: Reflections on the Past, Present and Future of Nanoelectronics," is at 6 p.m. March 26 in the upstairs of Lafayette Brewing Company, 622 Main St., Lafayette.

"The world of technology that we depend on so heavily today would not be possible without semiconductor technology," said Lundstrom, Purdue's Don and Carol Scifres Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "The smartphones, tablet computers, weather satellites and the Internet rely on the billions of transistors that we place on small silicon chips. The transistor has been called the most important invention of the 20th century."

Isaac Asimov called the invention of the process used to manufacture transistors on silicon chips "the most important moment since mankind emerged as a life form," Lundstrom said. "It's almost impossible to overstate the impact of this technology, and much more is coming."

Lundstrom's informal lecture, which is free and open to those 21 and older, is sponsored by the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering and Discovery Park.

The transistor was invented in 1947, and Purdue played an important role in its development, Lundstrom said. In fact, a germanium crystal made at the university was used for the first transistor built at Bell Laboratories. Integrated circuit chips were invented in 1959, after which the technology steadily advanced.

In the year 2000, however, "a threshold was crossed" when "microelectronics became nanoelectronics, and the possibilities it opened up seemed like science fiction," Lundstrom said. In his talk, he will discuss the difference between the two and also what can be learned from the development of this remarkable technology.

Lundstrom, who said he had a "ringside seat" throughout the development of microelectronics, also will discuss what it takes to develop science-based technologies and present some speculations about what lies ahead.

"Important questions to ask are how much farther can this technology advance, what happens then when we reach the end, and can we do it again, i.e. create great, new science-based technologies," he said.

Lundstrom was founding director of the National Science Foundation-funded Network for Computational Nanotechnology, which created the nanoHUB science gateway at Purdue that now serves over 300,000 users per year.

He currently leads the initiative, Nano-Engineered Electronic Device Simulation Node. Funded by the Semiconducting Research Corporation and NSF, NEEDS is focused on the new era of electronics that couples the power of billion-transistor CMOS technology with the new capabilities of emerging nano-devices and a charter to create high-quality models and a complete development environment that enables a community of compact model developers.

Lundstrom also is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, a fellow of the IEEE, APS, and AAAS, and a Thompson-Reuter highly cited researcher in engineering.

Lundstrom received his doctorate from Purdue, where he has been for 35 years. He received his bachelor's degree and master's degree from the University of Minnesota.

Science on Tap, led by graduate students David Welkie, Anju Karki and Nelda Vazquez, provides Purdue faculty and collaborating researchers the opportunity to share research activities in an informal setting with presentations that are designed to appeal to a more general audience. Attendance at the monthly event has averaged 80 during the program's first four years. 

Writers: Anna Schultz, 812-447-5229,

Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133, 

Sources: Mark Lundstrom, 765-494-3515,

David Welkie, 765-494-0455,

Nelda Vazquez, 765-496-1487,

Anju Karki, 765-494-0455, 

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