Microelectronics is a subfield of electronics. Microelectronics, as the name suggests, describes the manufacture of electronic components which are very small. It is also known as semiconductor device fabrication - the process used to create chips, the integrated circuits that are present in everyday electrical and electronic devices.
It is a multiple-step sequence of photographic and chemical processing steps during which electronic circuits are gradually created on a wafer made of pure semiconducting material. Silicon is the most commonly used semiconductor material today, along with various compound semiconductors. The entire manufacturing process from start to packaged chips ready for shipment takes six to eight weeks and is performed in highly specialized facilities referred to as fabs. These devices – chips – use a process known as photolithography.
Many components of the normal electronic design are available in microelectronic equivalent: transistors, capacitors, inductors, resistors, diodes and of course insulators and conductors can all be found in microelectronic devices.
Digital integrated circuits consist mostly of transistors. Analog circuits commonly contain resistors and capacitors as well. Inductors are used in some high-frequency analog circuits, but tend to occupy large chip area if used at low frequencies; gyrators can replace them.
As techniques improve, the size of microelectronic components continues to decrease – Moore’s law, named after Intel founder, Gordon Moore. Moore's Law describes an important trend in the history of microelectronics: that the number of transistors that can be inexpensively placed on an integrated circuit is increasing exponentially, doubling approximately every two years. The observation was first made by Moore in a 1965 paper. The trend has continued for more than half a century and is not expected to stop for a decade at least and perhaps much longer.
Microfabrication or micromanufacturing are the terms to describe processes of fabrication of miniature structures, of sizes measured in microns and smaller. Historically the earliest micromanufacturing was used for semiconductor devices in integrated circuit fabrication (as mentioned above). Practical advances in microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and other nanotechnology, where the technologies from IC fabrication are being re-used, adapted or extended have led to the extension of the scope and techniques of microfabrication.
Douglas White’s experience with microelectronics started in the early 1980’s while working for another firm. These projects included work on sites and fabrication areas for Boeing (acquired McDonnell Douglas), General Electric, Intel, Data General, and Xerox.
While much has changed in the AEC delivery process for new microelectronic facilities compared to the early 1980’s – raised floor air delivery for Class 1, modular fabs, modular plenums, narrower aisles, bulk headed equipment, and much more – the basic technology of buildings and building systems remains the same. In concert with capable engineering firms like IES - Integrated Engineering Systems and Greene Engineers, WHL continues to provide architectural services for sophisticated, recent microelectronics facilities.