Noble Prize in Physics in 1956 Term Paper

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Noble Prize in Physics in 1956

The subject of physics is closely related to engineering and development of new technology. This is the basis for many developments in the world. It was recognized by Alfred Nobel as one of the important subjects and the Nobel Committee decided to reward with the Nobel Prize.

It was said in the order of the Nobel Committee that the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1956 was awarded for "for their researches on semiconductors and their discovery of the transistor effect." (The Nobel Prize in Physics 1956) The later importance of transistors, over the last 50 years is well-known and it can be clearly stated that the present development of communications essentially started with transistors. The prize was awarded at one-third of the prize each to William Bradford Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Houser Brattain. Of them, William Shockley was working at Semiconductor Laboratory of Beckman Instruments and Walter Brattain was working at Bell Telephone Laboratories. Shockley was born in United Kingdom in 1910, while Bardeen was born in 1908, and Brattain was born in 1902. All three of them are no longer there, having passed away in 1989, 1991 and 1987 in order. (The Nobel Prize in Physics 1956)Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Noble Prize in Physics in 1956 Assignment

It is important to find out what the feelings of the awardees were regarding their great discovery. To find this out, we shall first study some important passages from the speech given at the Nobel Prize function by William Shockley. One of the important points made by him was that some important segments of United States industry believed in the theory that research of a fundamental character is important from a practical aspect. He then pointed out that this was certainly true of Bell Laboratories from where two of three Nobel Laureates came. The important point that he made was to object to the classification of Physics in terms of descriptions like "pure, applied, unrestricted, fundamental, basic, academic, industrial or practical." (Transistor technology evokes new physics) These descriptions according to him lead to a feeling that some types of research are inferior, while other types are superior. At the same time, the discovery of anything of practical importance should be viewed is useful and no one can belittle the "long-range value of explorations into new areas where a useful outcome cannot be foreseen." (Transistor technology evokes new physics)

In his own life he had been asked many times whether the experiment that he had planned was pure or applied research. At the same time, for the research scientist it was probably more important to know whether the particular piece of research will provide some more useful and lasting knowledge about nature. According to his opinion, if any such knowledge was possible, then the particular research should be classified as fundamental research and it did not matter whether the reasons for undertaking the research was purely personal motivation or with any other view. (Surface properties of semiconductors)

However all research scientists are individuals first, and the view of Brattain for undertaking the research was his fascination for the nature of surfaces. According to him it is at the surfaces that most interesting and useful phenomenon of the earth occurs, and he began by talking about the fact that man lives on the surface of the earth, though the present pollution situation makes it doubtful that he will be able to continue there for a long period of time. He also quoted the fact that catalysis of all chemical reactions take place at the surface of items, and it is only at the surface of plants that sunlight is turned into sugar by plants. Even in electronics, most of the circuit elements have non-equilibrium phenomenon occurring at the surface. This is similar to biology which is mostly concerned with surface phenomenon. This brings them to the concept of improvement of the stability of high power transistors through the reactions of one on the other. According to him, it was required to have both types to "confer the greatest benefit on mankind" that was ought in the will of Nobel. (Surface properties of semiconductors)

Getting on to the third person in the group, Dr. Bardeen was an assistant professor of physics at the University of Minnesota from 1938 to 1941 and after that he joined as a civilian physicist at the Naval Ordnance Laboratory in Washington, DC and worked there up to 1945. During that period he worked on the influence fields of ships so that it could be used for applying to underwater ordnance and minesweeping. After this period, he joined Bell Telephone Laboratories and remained there till 1951 and was working with the other two. Then he joined the University of Illinois and was appointed as Professor of electrical Engineering and Physics. His main work has always been in the fields of "electric conduction in semiconductors and metals, surface properties of semiconductors, theories of superconductivity and diffusion of atoms in solids." (John Bardeen - Biography)

The process of invention was equally fantastic, and on November 17, 1947 Walter Brattain who had built an item with silicon put the whole item in a thermos of water as he was getting irritated with condensation. His aim in building the piece was to study how electrons acted on the surface of a semiconductor, but the entire process had become impossible to study as the experiment was getting messed up with water. It would have been possible to put the item in vacuum so that condensation would not form, but the scientist put it in water and that removed the condensation. When the device was wet, the experiment was conducted again and then it created the largest amplification that had been created till that time. (The Miracle Month: The Invention of the First Transistor, November 17-December 23, 1947)

Another scientist, Robert Gibney was with him and they could not understand what was happening. Then they started experimenting and when they put on a positive voltage, the effect of amplification was even increased further, and when a negative voltage was applied, then there was no amplification. This made it seem that the effect of the electrons on the surface of the plate had been turned off by the effect of water, and thus the greatest difficulty in building a transistor had been removed. Then John Bardeen was told of this experiment and he thought that this would be the best way to make an amplifier. His suggestion was to put a metal point into the silicon where the silicon was surrounded by water. The use of water was to remove the problem of electrons as it had done earlier. The difficulty was that it was impossible to get the contact point to touch the metal point and not touch the water. This difficulty was solved by Brattain, and he built a suitable model. Then this amplifier was built and when it was completed, it was seen that there was some amplification, though the amplification was not much.

This led to further changes and on December 8, there was a suggestion from Bardeen that silicon be replaced with germanium. This led to an amplification which was about 330 times, but in exactly the opposite direction to what they had expected. In scientific terms, instead of getting the electrons moving, the mechanism was getting the holes moving. The result was that the two scientists had managed to get amplification at all frequencies, though they got high amplification at some frequencies and low amplification at other frequencies. The requirement for getting an amplification was seen to be a slab of germanium and two gold points which were just a very little distance away - a fraction of a millimeter. This then led to the suggestion from Brattain and he put a gold foil around a plastic triangle and sliced it through one of the points. Then the triangle was put down very gently on germanium and this led to a signal coming from one gold contact and increase rapidly as it went out through the other end. This was the first contact point transistor, and the piece of germanium, plastic and gold built up the first working model of a solid state amplifier. (The Miracle Month: The Invention of the First Transistor, November 17-December 23, 1947) This is the discovery that led to the Nobel Prize.

However, the transistor was not the end of the road and there was development into the integrated circuit which two together must be the greatest inventions of the twentieth century. As we know, these are made from materials which are called semiconductors, and the difficulties that earlier scientists had faced for working with them was that they did not know clearly the properties of these materials. That was known only in the 1950s, though the principle of transistors had been understood as early as 1926. There was a scientist named Dr. Julius Edgar Lilienfield from New York who had filed for a patient on an item which would… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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