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CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor)

CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) is the semiconductor technology used in the transistors that are manufactured into most of today's computer microchips. Semiconductors are made of silicon and germanium, materials which "sort of" conduct electricity, but not enthusiastically. Areas of these materials that are "doped" by adding impurities become full-scale conductors of either extra electrons with a negative charge (N-type transistors) or of positive charge carriers (P-type transistors). In CMOS technology, both kinds of transistors are used in a complementary way to form a current gate that forms an effective means of electrical control. CMOS transistors use almost no power when not needed. As the current direction changes more rapidly, however, the transistors become hot. This characteristic tends to limit the speed at which microprocessors can operate.

This was last updated in September 2005

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