A novel way of embedding chips in polymers may let you have your computer and sit on it, too John Stephen Smith inherited eight graduate students in the mid-1990s after one of his electrical engineering colleagues at the University of California at Berkeley died. Smith had little idea (and, truthfully, scant interest in) how to keep his colleague's research going and his new students occupied. Numerous efforts to marry silicon electronics with gallium arsenide optical devices--the focus of the group's research--had dragged on for years, with decidedly mixed results.
Inspiration struck while Smith waited for his wife at the chiropractor's office. He fiddled with a child's toy, a plastic box that he tilted back and forth to try to get tiny metal balls to enter perforations in a cardboard sheet. The eureka moment arrived when he had the odd thought that a similar method might be used for optoelectronic integration.
This article was originally published with the title Pour Me Another.