Intel has recently named Fellow Jack Kavalieros, as the 2021 Inventor of the Year in recognition of his contributions spanning more than two decades.

In a recent Intel Newsroom release, the tech giant recognizes Jack Kavalieros' work in advancing silicon manufacturing technology as well as a "dizzying array of others." The Intel fellow already has 437 patents in the United States alone, with a global total of 929 patents granted.

"Over the years, Jack has contributed to many of the world's first transistor innovations, and many of those have been or will be implemented in Intel products," says Robert Chau, Intel Senior Fellow, and Kavalieros' manager.

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A Pioneer of Strained Silicon Technology

Intel recalls Kavalieros' initial disbelief when they made the first progress toward a technology called strained silicon. Backed by data, Kavalieros and his colleagues at the Intel Components Research team soon discovered that adding a microscopically thin layer of silicon germanium material under the conventional layer of silicon. Additionally, that added germanium helps silicon atom stretch further than usual. Hence the term "strained silicon." The small modification to existing microelectronics to an increase in its performance as well as cut its power consumption by 20 percent.

Chau first hired Jack Kavalieros as a summer intern back in 1994, when the latter was still pursuing his Ph.D. Together in one of the company's "longest-running technical colalborations," Chau and Kavalieros worked on countless projects that pushed the limits of transistor technology and Moore's Law for over 25 years.

"When somebody says that there's a limit to a particular parameter," the 2021 Inventor of the Year explains in the Newsroom release, "We say, 'No, there is no limit.' And we try and push those limits."

The latest recipient for Intel's Inventor of the Year award was born in Thessaloniki, Greece to a supertanker captain as his father. Kavalieros grew up in the Bahamas before moving to Florida to pursue his education. He completed his doctorate studies in electrical engineering from the University of Florida, around which he began working for the tech giant.

Jeff Draeger, Vice President of Intel's Patent Group, notes Kavalieros as a "world-renowned authority in transistor research and development." He adds that the breakthroughs made by the 2021 Inventor of the Year in the field of transistor manufacturing have led to generations of microchips that "work faster and sip less power," driving hundreds of millions of devices worldwide.

The Intel Patent Group VP adds that Kavalieros is still working on still-undisclosed technology as a part of the company's future product pipeline.

The Secret of Continuous Innovation

When the Intel Newsroom writers asked the Inventor of the Year about his secret, Kavalieros waved the question off and insisted that the patents bearing his name are mostly team efforts. He then went on to note how he has "enjoyed immensely" the people he worked with, as well as the willingness to be "intellectually nimble."

"I think we just need to keep our nose to the grindstone, stay open-minded and not limit ourselves by our past," Kavalieros said. "A lot of the things we've learned in our past, we're going to have to evolve and change. Change is really the key element. You have to be comfortable with change, you have to adopt it quickly and do it faster than your competition."

Kavalieros likens successful inventing to climbing a tree: At first, it might seem like the way to get to the top is straight through the middle. "Then you find there's a better branch to get you there, and you learn something new... That's what keeps you going."

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