For Immediate Release: Dec. 14, 2012
By Office of Naval Research
ARLINGTON, Va.—It’s the kind of holiday party that scientists get really pumped to attend: Officials at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) gathered today to celebrate, cake and all, the anniversary of the transistor.
It was a quiet kind of party, marked not by blaring music but by top officials gathering to discuss the technological marvel that changed the future of electronics.
Understandably, they talked about ONR’s many contributions to the transistor’s use since its creation on Dec. 16, 1947.
“I can't imagine how cumbersome and clunky some of the equipment that I used as a Navy electronics technician would be without the use of transistors,” said Command Master Chief Charles Ziervogel.
In keeping with the Chief of Naval Operations Sailing Directions to “use new technologies and operating concepts to sharpen our warfighting advantage against evolving threats,” the organization has adapted the transistor—essentially a device that can control and amplify levels of electric current—in ways the original inventors at Bell Labs might never have imagined.
For instance, ONR has long invested in compound semiconductors, such as gallium arsenide, as the basis for many Department of Defense electronics platforms. That process, in turn, stimulated the development of an entire pillar of modern commercial communications technology—including the cell phone.
More recently, ONR’s investment in gallium nitride (GaN) transistor technology enabled the transistors powering the Navy’s latest, most capable radar systems, including the proposed Air and Missile Defense Radar.
GaN devices are also found in portable systems Marines are using to defeat improvised explosive devices.
“Beyond the Navy, ONR-supported GaN technology is also at the heart of the latest generation base stations—and, it’s being developed for more efficient power converter technology,” said Dr. Daniel Green, program officer in ONR’s Electronics, Sensors and Network Research department.
Such technology will be found in future hybrid electric vehicles, officials say, which should achieve unmatched efficiency in power conversion.
“There is an allure to the story of the transistor, one that spans generations in depth and breadth,” said Dr. Lawrence Schuette, director of innovation and acting director of research at ONR.
Schuette addressed the crowd at the transistor party, noting that the story of the transistor “is a story of American innovation and imagination and what Americans can create.”
So, officials at ONR say: Happy birthday, transistor. The space age, the study of solid-state physics, the computer revolution, the Internet, wireless communication, the transistor radio and even loud rock music would not have been possible without you.
Certainly the Navy would not be the force it is without the device. For ONR scientists, that’s reason to party.
Dylan Leckie and David Smalley contributed to this report.
About the Office of Naval research
The Department of the Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR) provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps’ technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and 914 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,400 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C.