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This glossary contains definitions of commonly used microelectronic terms.



Active Component – A device that has an analog electronic filter with the ability to amplify a signal or produce a power gain. There are two types of active components: electron tubes and semiconductors or solid-state devices. For example, an oscillator, transistor or integrated circuit.


Analog – Signals derived from physical phenomena that also may be interpreted as signals representing physical measurements. For example, light or visual input.


Analog Circuit – Components used to generate analog signals


Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) – A kind of integrated circuit that is specially built for a specific application or purpose. It can improve speed because it is specifically designed to do one thing well. It can also be made smaller and use less electricity.

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Ball Bond – A type of wire bonding that is the most common way to make the electrical interconnections between a chip and the outside world as part of semiconductor device fabrication. Associated with thermocompression (T/C) and thermosonic (T/S) joining methods.


Ball Grid Array (BGA) – A type of surface-mount packaging. Used to permanently mount devices such as microprocessors. Uses the underside of the package, where there is a considerable area for the connections.


Bill of Materials (BOM) – A list of raw materials, sub-assemblies, intermediate assemblies, sub-components, parts and the quantities of each needed to manufacture an end product.

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Capacitor – An electrical component that builds and stores voltage for release on command.


Chip – An integrated circuit or discrete device. Also known as a die.


Clean Room – A type of enclosed room or facility that is free from or resistant to any internal or external environmental contamination or hazard. They are used in scientific research or the development of devices and equipment that require an environment that’s free of contaminants, which may include dust, bacteria, humidity and other airborne particles.


Cure – Hardening and toughening of epoxy resin


Deposition – A process where a thin film of material is settled over the surface of a wafer or other substrate.


Die – A single piece of semiconductor material in which an electrical circuit has been fabricated. Also known as a chip.


Die Attach / Die Bonding – The process of attaching/bonding a die to a substrate, package or another die. This process can take on many forms and can be applied in many different ways.


Diffusion – A high-temperature process in which selected chemicals enter the structure of semiconductor materials, changing the electrical characteristics.


Digital – A method of representing information in an electrical circuit.


Digital Circuit – A circuit where the signal must be one of two discrete levels. Each level is interpreted as one of two different states.


Digital Signal Processor (DSP) – The process of analyzing and modifying a signal to optimize or improve its efficiency or performance. It involves applying various mathematical and computational algorithms to analog and digital signals to produce a signal that’s of higher quality than the original signal.


Diode – A semiconductor device with two terminals that conducts the flow of electric current in one direction only.


Dual In-Line Package (DIP) – The most common type of IC package. It is a computer chip package that contains two rows of connected pins.


Discrete Device – A semiconductor containing only one active element, such as a transistor or diode.


Dry Etch – The removal of material, typically a masked pattern of semiconductor material, by exposing the material to a bombardment or ions that dislodge of the material from the exposed surface.

Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM) – A type of random-access memory used in computing devices (primarily PCs). DRAM stores each bit of data in a separate passive electronic component that is inside an integrated circuit board.

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Electronically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory (EEPROM) – A stable, non-volatile memory storage system that is used for storing minimal data quantities in computer and electronic systems and devices, such as circuit boards. This data may be stored, even without a permanent power source, as device configuration or calibration tables.


Electrical Conductor – An object or type of material that allows the flow of an electrical current in one or more directions.


Electron – A unit of charge equal to the charge on one electron.


Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory (EPROM) – A stable, non-volatile memory storage system that is used for storing minimal data quantities in computer and electronic systems and devices, such as circuit boards. This data may be stored, even without a permanent power source, as device configuration or calibration tables


Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) – The sudden flow of electricity between two electrically charged objects caused by contact, an electrical short, or dielectric breakdown. A buildup of static electricity can be caused by tribocharging or by electrostatic induction.


Etch – The process of removing material in microelectronics manufacturing by chemical, electrolytic, or plasma means.


Electronic Design Automation (EDA) – Techniques of software tools for designing electronic systems such as printed circuit boards and integrated circuits. The tools work together in a design flow that chip designers use to design and analyze entire semiconductor chips.


Epoxy — A term used to denote both the basic components and the cured end products of epoxy resins, as well as a colloquial name for the epoxide functional group. Epoxy resins, also known as polyepoxides, are a class of reactive prepolymers and polymers which contain epoxide groups.

Eutectic – Relating to or denoting a mixture of substances (in fixed proportions) that melts and solidifies at a single temperature that is lower than the melting points of the separate constituents or of any other mixture of them


Eutectic Process – The creation of an intermetallic bond comprising a mixture of chemical compounds with a single chemical composition that solidifies at a lower temperature than any other composition made up of the same ingredients


Eutectic Bonding/Soldering — A wafer bonding technique with an intermediate metal layer that can produce a eutectic system.


Fabless – Manufacturing hardware devices in locations without specific fabrication for core technologies, like semiconductors. Manufacturers will outsource the design of these smaller pieces to other companies that may have a lower cost of labor or other accommodations.


Fabrication – The front end process of making devices on semiconductor wafers.


Flip-Chip – A chip that is installed on a circuit board face-down, with connections formed by solder bumps rather than wires.


Fillet – The amount of epoxy climbing the edges of the die.


Flux – Compound or solvent used to activate solder, but can contaminate the process.

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Globtop – Encapsulation of semiconductor chips and wire bonds with epoxy.


Hybrid Circuit – A miniaturized electronic circuit constructed of individual devices, such as semiconductor devices and passive components bonded to a substrate or printed circuit board.

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Inductor – A passive electrical component that thwarts the changes in electrical current that goes through it. Some types of inductors are used in alternating current systems.

Insulator – A material used to separate conductors from one another or to protect personnel from electricity.

Integrated Circuit (IC) – A small semiconductor-based electronic device consisting of fabricated transistors, resistors and capacitors. Integrated circuits are the building blocks of most electronic devices and equipment.

Interconnect – A conductor connection between two or more circuit elements.

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Large Scale Integration (LSI) – The process of integrating or embedding thousands of transistors on a single silicon semiconductor microchip.


Leadframe – A common type of chip package that uses metal leads that extend outside the housing.

Line width – A dimension on a mask or feature on an integrated circuit.

Linear Circuit – A electronic circuit in which for a sinusoidal input voltage of frequency f, any steady-state output of the circuit, is also sinusoidal with frequency f.

Lithography – The process of making printed circuits, from a mask to a wafer.

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Magnetron – A device that makes microwave radiation for applications.

Micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) – A technology that combines tiny electronic and mechanical parts to create systems with moving parts.

Medium-Scale Integration (MSI) – The process of integrating or embedding hundreds of thousands of transistors on a single silicon semiconductor microchip.

Metal Oxide Semiconductor (MOS) – A semiconductor where the controlling terminal is connected to a plate separated from the semiconductor by an insulating layer.

Microcomputer – A computer with a central processing unit (CPU) as a microprocessor. Designed for individual use, a microcomputer is smaller than a mainframe or a minicomputer.

Micron (μm) – One millionth of a meter. Also known as a micrometer.

Microprocessor – A component that performs the instructions and tasks involved in computer processing. In a computer system, the microprocessor is the central unit that executes and manages the logical instructions passed to it.

Monolithic Device – A device in which all of its circuits are on a single die.

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Non-Volatile Memory (NVM) – A type of computer memory that has the capability to hold saved data even if the power is turned off. NVM does not require its memory data to be periodically refreshed. It is commonly used for secondary storage or long-term consistent storage.

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Package – An organized and functionality based set of related interfaces and classes for an electric component.

Passive Component – A module that does not require energy to operate, except for the available alternating current (AC) circuit that it is connected to. It is not capable of power gain and is not a source of energy. For example, a chassis, inductor, resistor, transformer, or capacitor.


Plasma Cleaning – The removal of impurities and contaminants from surfaces through the use of an energetic plasma or Dielectric barrier discharge (DBD) plasma created from gaseous species. Gases such as argon and oxygen, as well as mixtures such as air and hydrogen/nitrogen are used.

Preform – Consists of a mixture or alloy of two or more dissimilar metals. For example, AuSi.

Printed Circuit Board (PCB) – An electronic circuit used in devices to provide mechanical support and a pathway to its electronic components. It is made by combining different sheets of non-conductive material, such as fiberglass or plastic, that easily holds copper circuitry. Also known as printed wiring board (PWB) or etched wiring board (EWB).

Programmable Read-Only Memory (PROM) – A type of digital memory with bit settings attached to fuses. It allows for a one-time or initial changing of read-only memory (ROM).

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Random Access Memory (RAM) – A type of data storage used in computers that is generally located on the motherboard. This type of memory is volatile and all information that was stored in RAM is lost when the computer is turned off. Volatile memory is temporary memory while ROM (read-only memory) is non-volatile and holds data permanently when the power is turned off.

Resistor – An electrical component with two terminals that is used to limit or regulate the flow of electrical current in electronic circuits. Its purpose is to reduce current flow as well as lower the voltage levels in its general vicinity or portion of the circuit. It is meant to regulate the actual load on the system, meaning that it uses up electricity and dissipates it as heat, thereby effectively reducing the amount of electricity flowing out of it by specific amounts.

Read-Only Memory (ROM) – A type of storage medium that permanently stores data on personal computers (PCs) and other electronic devices. It contains the programming needed to start a PC, which is essential for boot-up; it performs major input/output tasks and holds programs or software instructions.

Ribbon Bond – A form of wedge bonding that gains momentum in high frequency and optoelectronic applications due to a larger surface area.

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Semiconductor – A physical substance that is designed to manage and control the flow of current in electronic devices and equipment. It neither allows a freely flowing electric current nor repels it completely.

Silicon (Si) – The basic element used in most semiconductor devices.

Small-Scale Integration (SSI) – The process of integrating or embedding less than 30 transistors on a single silicon semiconductor microchip.


Solder – A low-melting alloy, especially one based on lead and tin or (for higher temperatures) on brass or silver, used for joining less fusible metals.

Submicron – Dimensions smaller than one micron (μm)


Semiconductor Packaging/Assembly – The final stage of semiconductor manufacturing. The active device is encased in a plastic ceramic or metal package. Also known as back-end processing.


Solderball – A ball of solder that provides the contact between the chip and the package.


Substrate – The surface or material on which a microelectronic device is built.


Surface Mount Technology (SMT) – A method for producing electronic circuits in which the components are placed directly onto the surface of the printed circuit board (PCB)


Thermocompression Bonding (T/C) – The process where two metals (e.g., Au and Au) are brought into atomic contact applying force and heat simultaneously. Can be used for flip-chip or wire bonding.

Thermosonic Bonding (T/S) – The most widely used wire bonding method to electrically connect silicon integrated circuits. It is a friction welding process.

Transformer – An apparatus for reducing or increasing the voltage of an alternating current.

Transistor – A semiconductor device that exhibits all the properties of a switch, allowing or blocking the flow of electrons. It has three terminals, one for input, one for output and one for controlling switching. It is the fundamental building block of modern electronic devices and is commonly found in circuit boards as discrete parts or embedded into integrated circuits.

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Ultra Large Scale Integration (ULSI) – The process of integrating or embedding millions of transistors on a single silicon semiconductor microchip.

Ultrasonic Bonding (U/S) – Directs high-frequency vibrations at two components creating a rapid build up of heat resulting in a bond without a significant melting of base materials.

Underfill – Epoxy that fills area between die & carrier for additional mechanical strength.

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Vertical cavity surface emitting laser (VCSEL) – A laser that can be used to transmit signals at a very high speed and high band width.

Very Large-Scale Integration (VLSI) – The process of integrating or embedding hundreds of thousands of transistors on a single silicon semiconductor microchip.

Volatile Memory – A type of computer memory that has the capability to hold saved data, but requires a constant power supply to retain it.

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Wafer – A thin piece of semiconductor material, usually crystalline silicon, in the shape of a very thin disc that is used as a base for fabricating electronic integrated circuits (ICs) and silicon-based photovoltaic cells. It serves as the substrate for most microelectronic circuits and goes through many processes, such as doping, implantation and etching, before the final product of an integrated circuit is completed. Also known as a slice or substrate.

Wafer Fabrication – A procedure composed of many repeated sequential processes to produce complete electrical or photonic circuits. For example, the production of radio frequency (RF) amplifiers, LEDs, optical computer components, and CPUs for computers.

Wedge Bond – A type of wire bond that typically utilizes ultrasonic (U/S) to create a bond between the wire and the bond pad.

Wire Bond – The method of making interconnections between an integrated circuit (IC) or other semiconductor device and its packaging during semiconductor device fabrication.

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