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Patron: Her Majesty the Queen


The Royal Scottish Society of Arts
Showcasing Scotland's Science, Technology and Innovation

3rd Meeting of the 193rd Session (2013-2014)

Prof Tom Stevenson

Prof Tom Stevenson

Microelectronics - key to our modern life style

Professor Tom Stevenson
Museum of Communication Foundation Trust

In the Augustine United Church
41 George IV Bridge
Edinburgh, EH1 1EL
On Monday 2nd December 2013, at 7pm

This lecture will review some of the developments in electronics which have had an enormous impact on our modern lifestyle, typified by the latest generation of smart phones. The effect of this technology on society has been similar to that of the printing press in historical times and it could be said to have triggered another industrial revolution, based on the transfer and storage of information.

The invention of the transistor in 1947 was a milestone in the development of modern electronics, allowing much smaller, lighter systems to be realised with a corresponding reduction in cost and power consumption. The first integrated circuit followed in 1958, demonstrating that large numbers of transistors could be fabricated simultaneously on a common substrate. The manufacturing techniques developed rapidly and by the early 1970s we had electronic calculators as consumer products. In the 1980s the personal computer was launched, followed by the mobile phone. The drive to make devices ever smaller has continued and the integrated circuits in the latest computers may contain hundreds of millions of transistors on a piece of silicon smaller than a postage stamp. The manufacturing process for such devices – microfabrication – uses a fascinating combination of optics, chemistry, physics and high precision mechanics, operating in an ultra-clean, temperature-controlled environment. It is the most complex manufacturing process ever devised by man.

Looking ahead, there are indeed physical limits to miniaturisation but they have not yet been reached. We are likely to see even more complex devices appearing at prices that make them attractive to the consumer and there will be new applications in other fields, particularly in medicine and health care. The future looks good!

Tom Stevenson retired at the end of 2012 from the University of Edinburgh where he held a Personal Chair in Microelectronics Technology. Prior to joining the University of Edinburgh, he worked for Ferranti and Wolfson Microelectronics. He has been involved with the Museum of Communication [MoC] for over 20 years, having been a colleague and friend of the founder of the collection, Harry Matthews. He has been active in communicating science to the general public for many years through Museum activities and by taking part in Science Festivals at various locations from Carlisle to Aberdeen. He has taken an active part in the Orkney Science Festival every year since it was founded in 1991.

Location of meeting

Complimentary tea, coffee and biscuits are served from about 6:40pm onwards before the meetings.

Members of the Public are welcome to attend

Dr Jane Ridder-Patrick, Secretary
Telephone: 0131 556 2161

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