Quantum Tunneling effect: Leo Esaki and Robert Noyce

di Vago

In 1956, Sony was having a great success in marketing transistor radios all over the world and was highly ambitious to develop new products. During the same year, Leo Esaki joined the company: “I had an ambition too, to find a worthwhile subject which would fulfill my Ph.D requirements in the Physics Department at the University of Tokyo”; noted the scientist in a IEEE paper from 1976 where he described the discovery that not only helped him to get his desired Ph.D degree, but the Nobel Prize too.

Leo Esaki is considered the inventor of the Tunnel Diode, also known as Esaki Diode: a semiconductor device that, for the first time in history, physically demonstrated what Quantum mechanics only predicted in theory: the quantum tunneling effect. Quantum tunneling is a phenomenon where particle tunnels through a barrier that, according to classical theories, cannot be surmounted.

Nevertheless, at the same time, another Ph.D graduate was conducting the same type on research. Robert Noyce, the American founder of Intel corp., wrote some notes in 1956 that describes what seems to be a tunnel diode.
Nowadays some researcher is debating who really should receive the recognition for such invention. Although it is hard put an end to the dispute, it is easy to observe how changes and events are meant to happen at a specific time in history.