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Not Making Atoms any Smaller

Speaker: Ian Phillips  Visiting Professor Liverpool University

"Scientists investigate that which already is; engineers create that which has never been." - A.Einstein.

This talk by Ian Phillips, a senior member of the IEEE and Visiting Professor at Liverpool, is concerned with the rapid developments in electronic control systems and the problems/challenges that are emerging as the size of transistors approaches the size of individual atoms.

By 1833 the knowledge about physical materials had advanced to a point where the first electronic amplifier was made. It was a relay, but it enabled the creation of the first control systems which found immediate use for military and commercial purposes.

The following century saw fundamental changes in our physical understanding and its use in electronics but a major change occurred in 1947 when the first point contact transistor appeared and the inventors were awarded the Nobel Prize.  This was soon followed by the first integrated circuits and the appreciation of Moores' Law in which transistor packing densities doubled roughly every 18 months. With each step the sophistication of the control systems grew, and the products based on them ever cheaper and more pervasive ... and society, became increasingly dependent on them.

During this period physicists have developed a much greater understanding of our 118 elements, but the atoms themselves have not changed.  As a result,  today, as the size of individual transistors approach the size of atoms, the expectation of continuing improvement in computer power has obvious limits. After 186 years are we approaching the end of the electronic system scaling, that society has accepted as a fundamental law?

Venue information
       * Wheelchair access
       * Car park
       * Coffee and Tea from 19:00

Image: ©  Zephyris, Wikimedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

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This event is free to attend and there is no need to register.


Organised By
IOP South West Branch
19 Nov 2019 19:30 to 21:00
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