160 pages, 23 b/w photos, 34 b/w line drawings
This is a story about sand and how science and silicon changed our lives. Over the last century, science taught us how to take this most common material and create the products on which we depend. It allows us to determine the atomic structure of materials and to grow novel, new materials atomic layer by atomic layer. The principles of thermodynamics are used to transform sand into ultra pure silicon. Quantum mechanics gave birth to the electronic age and the computer chip in which dopants are precisely placed in ultra pure silicon. The absorption and emission and reflection of quanta of light, photons, underlies solar cells, light emitting diodes, radiation detectors and optical fibers. This book follows the history of these scientific discoveries and relates them to the products made from sand.
The book although pitched at a general science-literate reader, has the potential to act as a gateway to introduce the reader to more specialised topics. It is extremely well researched with excellent supporting references. I would certainly find it a useful text for entry-level researchers at our training schools.
- Andrew Taylor, Science & Technology Facilities Council, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
"Where would the world be without sand? Pure and impure, heated and x-rayed, in tiny crystals and huge quantities, sand is not only underfoot, but--as McWhan shows in drawing on four decades of scientific research--the most important substance in modern science and life. We rely on it in everything from our watches, cigarette lighters, submarine detectors, and filters to the computer chips that are literally the basis of the electronics revolution. Like books such as 'Coal, Cod and Salt', this book is an entertaining read in the genre of microhistory."
- Robert P. Crease, chairman of the philosophy department at Stony Brook University, author of "World in the Balance: the Historic Quest for an Absolute System of Measurement".
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