Moore’s law is not a fact of nature, it is the result of women and men struggling to push the boundaries of physics in an effort to create better, cheaper technology for the world. We only discussed the tip of ice berg when it comes to transistors for instance,but we can already see that making these devices small, reliable and cheap is no easy feat. The size of a typical transistor in 1983 when Dr. Woo first started in the semiconductor field was about 100 micrometers. That’s about the same as the width of a human hair. Intel could fit about 100,000 of these on a typical microchip. Today, 20+ years later, Intel has designed transistors .5 um wide, and they can fit 1 billion of them on a single chip (Jaeger 2002). That’s a lot of ones and zeros that can be bounced around!
With Intel leading the way, Dr. Woo and her fellow engineers managed to increase the transistor to chip ratio by 10,000. This difference has lead to a complete revolution in technology and communication. Without people like Been-Jon Woo, much of todays technology would be non-existant.
In the 1980’s, Dr. Woo focused her work on non-volatile memory. Non-volatile memory is a type of computer memory that retains data even after power is taken away. A thumb sized flash drive is a good example of non-volatile memory. Been-Jon Woo accumulted 13 patents for her work in this field (Various 2008). Many of these patents are focused on the process methods involved with creating the silicon chips for these devices.
By using complicated simulation tools and a strong understanding of the physics governing the behavior of these devices, engineers like Dr. Woo were able to design progressively smaller and more efficient silicon chips. She needed to take her own theories, apply them in simulations, and then realize those simulations in an actual semiconductor device.
The tools used to create microchips are as advanced and complex as the chips themselves. Because the process of altering the crystalline structure of silicon is so complicated, computer simulation of a device is essential to it’s creation. Simulators like the Stanford University Process Modeling program (SUPREM) are used by engineers like Dr. Woo to predict the behavior of the semiconductor during the various phases of it’s development. After a succesful simulation, the chip can be manufactured in a clean room, where impuritys in the air have been removed. A single piece of dust can ruin the creation of a semiconductor device.
In the 1990’s, Dr. Woo shifted her focus to the problems involved with microproccesor efficiency. Intel has been known for creating some of the best microproccessors on earth. These devices are incredibly powerful, but we need to remember that at their core they are a complex system of transistors handing ones and zeros to each other. Developing these systems requires not only a knowledge of digital logic, but also of actual device physics. The patents that Dr. Woo recieved in the 1990’s deal with various performance improvements in these proccessors. She and the engineers she have led have taken Intels proccessor speeds from less than 90 MHz to over 2.5 GHz (Jaeger 2002).
Again, the use of complex simulators and a strong understanding of theory were important for Dr. Woo to develop these technologies. However, these are not the only skills needed to accomplish what Dr. Woo has. To make the leaps in technologies that Intel has, it needed more than just the briliant intelect and powerful dedication of Been-Jon Woo, it needed her leadership skills as well. Been-Jon is widely respected and admired by her peers (WITI 2006). Her ability to lead teams of people to success may have been her greatest contribution to the field of semiconductor technology.