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In electronics, an integrated circuit (also known as IC, microcircuit, microchip, silicon chip, or chip) is a miniaturized electronic circuit (consisting mainly of semiconductor devices, as well as passive components) that has been manufactured in the surface of a thin substrate of semiconductor material.
A hybrid integrated circuit is a miniaturized electronic circuit constructed of individual semiconductor devices, as well as passive components, bonded to a substrate or circuit board.
Integrated circuits were made possible by experimental discoveries which showed that semiconductor devices could perform the functions of vacuum tubes, and by mid-20th-century technology advancements in semiconductor device fabrication. The integration of large numbers of tiny transistors into a small chip was an enormous improvement over the manual assembly of circuits using discrete electronic components. The integrated circuit's mass production capability, reliability, and building-block approach to circuit design ensured the rapid adoption of standardized ICs in place of designs using discrete transistors.
There are two main advantages of ICs over discrete circuits: cost and performance. Cost is low because the chips, with all their components, are printed as a unit by photolithography and not constructed one transistor at a time. Performance is high since the components switch quickly and consume little power, because the components are small and close together. As of 2006, chip areas range from a few square mm to around 350 mm², with up to 1 million transistors per mm.
Among the most advanced integrated circuits are the microprocessors or "cores", which control everything from computers to cellular phones to digital microwave ovens. Digital memory chips and ASICs are examples of other families of integrated circuits that are important to the modern information society. While cost of designing and developing a complex integrated circuit is quite high, when spread across typically millions of production units the individual IC cost is minimized. The performance of ICs is high because the small size allows short traces which in turn allows low power logic (such as CMOS) to be used at fast switching speeds.
ICs have consistently migrated to smaller feature sizes over the years, allowing more circuitry to be packed on each chip. This increased capacity per unit area can be used to decrease cost and/or increase functionality—see Moore's law which, in its modern interpretation, states that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles every two years. In general, as the feature size shrinks, almost everything improves—the cost per unit and the switching power consumption go down, and the speed goes up. However, ICs with nanometer-scale devices are not without their problems, principal among which is leakage current (see subthreshold leakage for a discussion of this), although these problems are not insurmountable and will likely be solved or at least ameliorated by the introduction of high-k dielectrics. Since these speed and power consumption gains are apparent to the end user, there is fierce competition among the manufacturers to use finer geometries. This process, and the expected progress over the next few years, is well described by the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors
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