The American physicist John Bardeen was born on 23 May 1908. Bardeen is the only person to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics twice, for his pioneering work on semiconductors and transistors.
Since the late 1950s, when they were first exploited commercially, semiconductors have revolutionized electronic systems, transforming communications, signal processing, computing, and control applications for both industry and consumers.
The IEC Electropedia defines a semiconductor as a “substance the conductivity of which due to charge carriers of both signs is normally in the range between that of conductors and insulating media and in which the volumic numbers of charge carriers can be changed by external means.” The properties of a semiconductor mean that electricity will only flow through it under certain conditions.
They are the key elements for the majority of electronic systems. Semiconductors have given us transistors, diodes, integrated circuits, the solar cell and the silicon chip. They are used in power devices, optical sensors, and light emitters.
IEC Technical Committee 47, Semiconductor devices, prepares international standards for the design, manufacture, use and reuse of discrete semiconductor devices. TC 47 develops the IEC 60747 and IEC 62047series of standards for semiconductors. IEC TC 86, Fibre optics, is responsible for the IEC 61290, IEC 61291, and IEC 61292 series.
Since the properties of semiconductors are related to the devices where they will be used, different standards address, for example, switchgear and controlgear, converters, and X-ray machines. This means that the standards that apply to the design and test methods for the device also address semiconductor requirements. Other TCs with semiconductor requirements include:
- IEC TC 22, Power electronic systems and equipment
- IEC TC 40, Capacitors and resistors for electronic equipment
- IEC TC 82, Solar photovoltaic energy systems
- ISO/IEC JTC1, the joint technical committee on information technology established by IEC and ISO
IEC International Standards, together with the IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components ( IECQ), offer a unique solution to manufacturers, suppliers and buyers of semiconductors or devices using semiconductors. It is a one-stop shop that provides specifications for the design of products that can then be tested and certified by IECQ.
IECQ ensures the quality, safety and reliability of all electronic components, monitors and tests the use of hazardous substances in electronic equipment and provides assessment and certification for facilities that handle unprotected ESD (electrostatic discharge) sensitive devices.
Manufacturers using electronic components and semiconductors or processes related to electronic components covered by IECQ certificates have the assurance that their products will perform as designed and removes the need for prolonged performance testing of componentry and sub-assemblies.
John Bardeen was first awarded the Nobel physics prize in 1956, with William Shockley and Walter Brattain, for the invention of the transistor. His 1972 prize, which he shared with Leon N Cooper and John Robert Schrieffe, was for a fundamental theory of conventional superconductivity known as the BCS theory.