Skip to main content
Engineering LibreTexts

1.3: Electronic Materials and Products

  • Page ID
    2743
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    Progress in Electrical Engineering was always dependent on progress in materials. For quite some time, electrical engineering meant electromechanicalengineering, and electrical products were made from "trivial" materials, as seen from a modern point of view. What was needed were cables, insulators, ferromagnetic sheet metal for transformers and generators, and a lot of metal for the general mechanics. A few applications centered around some mysterious materials - out of that grew electronics and electronic materials. But even then there were key materials:

    • Cu wires of all kinds. Not so trivial - how do you make a insulated but still flexible wire?
    • Insulating materials - plastics didn't quite exist yet. Mica was one of the key materials - there were mines for it!
    • Graphite and tungsten were important, whenever things got hot, like the filament in the light bulb or in a vacuum tube.
    • The "tube of Braun" - the "Braunsche Röhre" as it was known in Europe - the first cathode ray tube (CRT) in other words - needed complicated glass work and some ZnS as electroluminescent material
    • Strange compounds like "phosphor bronze" were developed for contacts.
    • And Selenium (Se) was important for rectifiers, although nobody quite understood how it worked.

    The essential break through in the thirties was the vacuum tube; with it came electronics: Rectifiers, amplifiers, radio, black-and white TV, colour TV. It's not that long ago, but obviously long enough for some not to remember! The next break-through was called transistor; it happened in 1947. Integrated circuits followed around 1970, and since then we witness exponential growth with growth rates in the complexity of electronics (at constant prices) of up to 40% a year! A good (german) book covering this development in some detail is Hans Queissers "Kristallne Krisen".


    1.3: Electronic Materials and Products is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

    • Was this article helpful?