Photo of Chenming Hu

Chenming Hu

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation
  • Electronics

For pioneering innovations in microelectronics including reliability technologies, the first industry-standard model for circuit design, and the first 3-dimensional transistors, which radically advanced semiconductor technology.

Chenming Hu on encouraging curiosity in his students

Each year, manufacturers of cell phones and computers launch updated products, intriguing consumers with a trio of promises: Better, faster, stronger.

Meanwhile, a rule called “Moore’s Law” predicts the pace of this innovation, stating that the number of transistors on a computer chip must double every 18 to 24 months to meet the ever-increasing demand for more powerful electronics.

Transistors manipulate the flow of electricity in computer chips, sending signals to make devices perform certain functions.

In 1999, Chenming Hu crammed a record number of transistors onto a chip with his invention of “FinFET,” short for Fin Field Effect Transistor.

The FinFET – named for a vertical fin-like component – takes up less surface area than conventional two-dimensional transistors, allowing engineers to fit more on each chip.

Since Hu’s invention, companies including Intel have used the FinFET to stretch the limits of digital processing capabilities with smaller, more powerful devices.