Donald L. Klein

Born: December 19, 1930 | Brooklyn, NY, US

Donald L. Klein grew up in Brooklyn, New York. With his childhood friend, Neil Wotherspoon, Klein developed an early passion for chemistry, electronics, and amateur radio, interests that would follow him throughout his life and career. After completing a degree under Roland Ward, Klein was recruited to work for Bell Laboratories, and began working on the production of semiconductors. His group was involved in developing etching techniques for semiconductors and methods to prevent different types of contamination in semiconductor production. While at Bell, Klein and his colleagues identified the problems with current FET models and processes; then came the idea of using a heavily doped polycrystalline silicon layer as the gate of an FET. The gate was to be supported on dual layers of a silicon nitride and silicon dioxide serving as the gate insulator. Using the FET as a model for integrated circuits, they fabricated and characterized hundreds of FET devices at high yield that exhibited close electrical tolerances. After a restructuring, Klein left Bell to work for IBM.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0332
No. of pages: 105
Minutes: 234

Interview Sessions

David C. Brock
2 and 9 March 2006
By Phone

Abstract of Interview

Donald L. Klein is the son of a Hungarian father and a Hungarian-American mother, who grew up in Brooklyn, New York. With his childhood friend, Neil Wotherspoon, Klein developed an early passion for chemistry, electronics, and amateur radio, interests that would follow him throughout his life and career. At Brooklyn Technical High School, he discovered an additional passion for metallurgy. He completed his undergraduate degree in chemistry at Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (now Polytechnic Institute of New York University), then found a job in the semiconductor industry to support his new wife (who also received a degree in chemistry). After working for a couple of years, he pursued a graduate degree at the University of Connecticut to study photochemistry under Dr. Roland Ward. Klein was recruited to work for Bell Laboratories, and began working on the production of semiconductors. His group was involved in involved in developing etching techniques for semiconductors and methods to prevent different types of contamination in semiconductor production. In February 1966, Klein was in charge of a brainstorming session with several other Bell scientists to design a better process for building FET devices. They first identified the problems with current models and processes; out of that meeting came the idea of using a heavily doped polycrystalline silicon layer as the gate of an FET. The gate was to be supported on dual layers of a silicon nitride and silicon dioxide serving as the gate insulator. Using the FET as a model for integrated circuits, they fabricated and characterized hundreds of FET devices at high yield that exhibited close electrical tolerances. Klein and his colleagues published several papers on their new technology, and applied for patents on their process, though Bell's management was slow to appreciate the breakthrough its scientists had made. After a restructuring, Klein left Bell to work for IBM. The rest of the industry, however, was quick to adopt and improve the silicon gate technology. There were legal disputes throughout the 1970s, but by that time Klein was at IBM developing photoresist technologies and more efficient processes for manufacturing electronic packaging.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1952 Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute BS Chemistry
1956 University of Connecticut MS Inorganic Chemistry
1959 University of Connecticut PhD Inorganic Chemistry

Professional Experience

Sylvania Electric Products, Inc.

1952 to 1954
Chemist, Chemistry and Physics Department

University of Connecticut

1954 to 1958
Research Assistant, Teaching Assistant, and Assistant Instructor, Chemistry Department

Bell Laboratories

1958 to 1967
Member of Technical Staff and Supervisor

IBM Corporation

1968 to 1987
Senior Engineer, Manager, and Technical Staff
1987
Consultant

Dutchess Community College

1987
Member of Faculty, Department of Physical Sciences; Lecturer in Chemistry

Honors

Year(s) Award
1982

IBM Invention Award

1994

Inducted into New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame

1994

Jack A. Morton Award of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers

1999

Brooklyn Technical High School Alumni Hall of Fame

Table of Contents

Family History, Childhood, and Schooling
1

Father's immigration experience. Born in Brooklyn. Early interest inchemistry. Interest in amateur radio and electronics. Brooklyn Technical High School. Interest in chemistry and metallurgy.

Undergraduate Education, Early Career, and Graduate School
9

Undergraduate at Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn. Solid-state and radio frequency titrimetry. Scholarship work on polarography. Marriage. Sylvania Electric Products, Inc. Semiconductors and diffused transistors. Graduate studies at the University of Connecticut. Photochemistry.

Bell Laboratories
28

Recruitment. Early projects on semiconductors. Moisture contamination. Etching. Bell management. Plating. Aluminum oxide contamination. Gallium arsenide doping.

Silcon Gate
43

Interdepartmental meeting. Goal to develop a process like a chemist. Problems with field effect transistors. Idea of sandwich structure with silicon. Trial and error construction of silicon gate device. Personal, company, and industry response. Restructuring at Bell. Patents.

Later Career
71

Move to International Business Machines. Spread of silicon gatetechnology. Silicon gate legal disputes. Lithography. Research inelectronic packaging technologies.

Index
97

About the Interviewer

David C. Brock

David C. Brock is a senior research fellow with the Center for Contemporary History and Policy at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. As a historian of science and technology, he specializes in the history of semiconductor science, technology, and industry; the history of instrumentation; and oral history. Brock has studied the philosophy, sociology, and history of science at Brown University, the University of Edinburgh, and Princeton University.

In the policy arena Brock recently published Patterning the World: The Rise of Chemically Amplified Photoresists, a white-paper case study for the Center’s Studies in Materials Innovation. With Hyungsub Choi he is preparing an analysis of semiconductor technology roadmapping, having presented preliminary results at the 2009 meeting of the Industry Studies Association.