Watching an excellent video about the invention of the transistor stimulated to me to think about other big discoveries and inventions in solid state technology.
Who would have thought that huge device would become the basis of an amazing revolution (both technological, economic, and even social...)?
In particular, which are the most ubiquitous ones?
For which devices did both theory and experiment play a role, as they did for the transistor?
I find it worthwhile to think about this for two reasons. First, this semester I am again teaching solid state physics and it is nice to motivate students with examples.
Second, there is too much hype about basic research in materials and device physics, that glosses over the formidable technical and economic obstacles, to materials and devices becoming ubiquitous. Can history give us some insight as to what is realistic?
Here is a preliminary list of some solid state devices that are ubiquitous.
inorganic semiconductor photovoltaic cell
liquid crystal display
giant magnetoresistance used in hard disk drives
blue LED used in solid state lighting
Some of these feature in a nice brochure produced by the USA National Academy of Sciences.
Here are a few that might be on the list but I am not sure about as I think they are more niche applications with limited commercial success. Of course, that may change...
superconductors (in MRI magnets and as passive filters in mobile phone relay towers )
Is graphene in any commercial device?
What would you add or subtract from the list?