Microelectronic engineers design and fabricate electronic devices and systems or subsystems using extremely small components - integrated circuits (IC's). We create layers and features that range in size from millimeters down to tens of nanometers.
The integrated circuit (IC) has changed virtually every aspect of our lives. The hallmark of the integrated circuit industry over the past four decades has been the exponential increase in the number of transistors incorporated onto a single piece of silicon. The rapid advances in the number of transistors per chip have led to integrated circuits with continuously increasing capability and performance. As time has progressed, large, expensive, complex systems have been replaced by small, high performance, inexpensive integrated circuits. ICs are dominated by silicon electronics, and about eighty percent of these are complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) technology. Silicon is the most common semiconductor substrate because it is abundant, has excellent physical properties and forms a high quality oxide for insulating and fabrication purposes.
Microelectronics fabrication today employs one of the most highly trained engineering workforces of any manufacturing industry. As the density of integrated circuits rises (and therefore device feature size decreases) and as industry shifts to large wafer sizes, the complexity of microelectronic fabrication processes creates a demand for an ever more highly educated and trained workforce. The BS program in Microelectronic Engineering at RIT meets this critical need.
Stanley Wolf, author and former professor at UCLA said in an article published by "Solid State Technology" magazine,
"There is a shortage of engineering graduates, especially those from the pioneering and renowned IC manufacturing program at the Rochester Institute of Technology".
Here are some descriptions of the industries and the technology we work as microelectronic engineers.
Integrated circuit (IC) technology makes use of many diverse fields of science and engineering: physics, electronics and circuit analysis, optical lithography, materials science, statistics, chemistry, and computing skills.
To increase the capability of electronic circuits the number of transistor required has increased and the size of individual devices has decreased. As the devices have shrunk in size we have entered the nanoscale regime where molecular and atomic scale phenomena come into play, elements of quantum mechanics become important.
Scientists and engineers, who work in this field, need a broad understanding and the ability to seek out, integrate and use ideas from many fields.
From a modest beginning at AT&T Bell Labs in the middle of the last century where the integrated circuit was introduced, this technology now pervades nearly everything we touch on a daily basis. The introduction of the personal computer (PC) by IBM in 1980 made semiconductor microchips a household term. This large-scale integration has continued over the decades due to innovations, process advancements in manufacturing, and rapid implementation into new applications.
The semiconductor industry consists of many groups of companies and institutions, all of which contribute to its vitality. At the center are the chip-manufacturers; they are supported by a large number of outside organizations including manufacturers of chip-processing and metrology-tools, suppliers of materials and chemicals, analytical-laboratories, industry-associations that provide manufacturing standards and organize co-operative research efforts, and colleges and universities that provide technically trained workers.
The electronics-industry exceeds $1 trillion in sales per year, and semiconductors constitute over $300- billion of that number.
San Jose, Calif.-based SEMI is a trade group representing more than 2,500 companies in the semiconductor sector and related industries. The industry's future demands that we create new knowledge and develop it into technologies that drive our economy, guarantee our national security, and improve our health and quality of life.