A New Homemade Z2 Chip Came From the Mind of a 22-Year-Old Undergrad
Sam Zeloof, a 22-year-old undergrad student has managed to build chips in his parents’ garage.
Zeloof started his chip-making journey back in 2016 when he was a high school junior. He says that he was influenced by inventor and entrepreneur Jeri Ellsworth's YouTube videos.
After 10 years of tinkering with transistors, Zeloof decided to build his own chips and combine them with machines from the ‘70s. Zeloof is also the CEO of an augmented-reality startup called Tilt Five.
Using salvaged and homemade equipment, Zeloof now built a new chip with 1,200 transistors, Z2, in his family’s New Jersey garage, about 30 miles (48 km) from where the first transistor was produced at Bell Labs in 1947.
He documented the building process of Z2 on his personal blog and his YouTube Channel.
Before Zeloof's successful Z2, there was his first chip: a much smaller one he had built as a high school senior back in 2018.
Zeloof half-jokingly claims that he’s making faster progress than the semiconductor industry did in its early days. His second chips growth rate outpacing Moore’s law, the rule of thumb coined by an Intel cofounder that says the number of transistors on a chip doubles roughly every two years, by having 200 times as many transistors as his first.
While the Z2 chip has far more transistors than its predecessors, but it comes with a few challenges. The first of which is low yield, that is, if multiple transistors fail to operate as expected. Secondly, the device is purely N-MOS technology meaning that no complementary logic can be implemented, which could cause lower static power consumption.
The chip-making capabilities of Sam Zeloof might be short compared to commercial semiconductor foundries, still, he may lead the way of homemade integrated circuits.
While Zeloof builds chips at home, Intel is investing $20 billion towards a massive new semiconductor plant in Ohio, where it will employ 10,000 workers.