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This 22-year-old boy builds chips in his parents’ garage

Zeloof hand-stitched, hand-stitched polysilicon squares, each for a separate chip, on a small 4,000 self-made piece of cloth per minute to cover them with the most durable materials needed to transfer its design to the surface. Then his home-made photography machine showed off his design: a group of 12 squares, each with 100 transistors (and a dancing bear), 1,200 transistors in total.

Zeloof’s first chip, Z1, was developed in 2018 while still in high school and has six transistors.

Photo: Sam Kang

Its second chip, Z2, was completed in August 2021 and has 1,200 transistors.

Photo: Sam Kang

Zeloof is working on the Z3, a chip that can add 1 + 1, as a step towards complete microprocessor.

Photo: Sam Kang

Each chip is then soaked with acid and cooked in an oven at about 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit[1,000 ° C]to burn in phosphorus atoms to reverse its movement. Three other circuits under the photolithography machine – separated by steps plus time in a plasma-filled wiper room to remove polysilicon – completed each chip. Modern commercial fabrics make chips in a similar way, using a series of techniques to gradually add and subtract items from various design components. These chips are very sophisticated, with billions of tiny transistors wrapped tightly, and the steps are done by machine and not by hand. The transistors on the second-generation Zeloof chips were about 10 times faster than their predecessors and had a shape as small as 10 microns, no larger than a red blood cell.

In August, Zeloof tested the Z2 and pulled it into a boxy beige semiconductor analyzer released by Hewlett Packard nearly two decades before his birth. Several smooth curves on its green screen showed success. Zeloof notes: “That twist was incredible, the first sign of life when you spent the whole day dissolving that tiny particle of crystal in a medicine jar.”

How do you celebrate your homemade chip working? “Tweet it!Zeloof said. His project has garnered Twitter followers and millions of YouTube views, as well as helpful advice from veterans of the 1970s semiconductor industry.

Zeloof says he is not sure what he wants to do after graduation this spring, but he has been thinking about the DIY machine tools they could have in modern technology. In many ways the DIY experiment has never been more powerful: robotic tools and 3D printers are more easily purchased, and more destructive tools like Arduino microcontroller and Raspberry Pi it is well established. “But the chips are still made in a big factory somewhere,” says Zeloof. “There has been little progress in making this easier.”

Ellsworth, whose home-based transistors recommended Zeloof, says there could be a benefit in making the equipment more sophisticated. “The tools we have today can make this possible for small jobs, and in some cases I think it makes sense,” he says. Ellsworth argues that chip technology that looks old-fashioned in high-tech fabrics can be useful for engineers.

Zeloof recently upgraded its digital camera to print large pieces as small as 0.3 microns, or 300 nanometers – almost identical to the commercial equipment manufacturers in the mid-90s. Now, he is thinking of the work he could do in a chip at the historic level of the Intel 4004. “I want to push the silicon of the garage forward and open people’s minds so that we can do some of these things at home,” he says. .


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