JULY 5--IBM ( www.ibm.com) announced that it has developed a very fast silicon transistor. The company has refined its silicon germanium chip-manufacturing technology to produce transistors that are far thinner than others. As a result, information can travel faster or at the same speed using far less power.
The new transistor is capable of operating at 210 GHz using just 1 mA of electrical current, or about 80% faster than current technology, while using half as much power. IBM said the technique should pave the way for networking chips that can run at 80 GHz, or twice as fast as today's fastest silicon-based chips. If successful, IBM could help chip designers avoid having to move more of their processors to more exotic materials such as gallium arsenide or indium phosphide.
Though IBM has been working with silicon-germanium for about a decade, the latest advance allows the company to make transistors--the building blocks of chips--that are only 100 atoms to 200 atoms thick at the base. "That's what really makes this work," said Bernard Meyerson, vice president of the IBM communications research and development center (East Fishkill, NY).
The first chips to use the new technology will likely be networking chips that help guide data on and off of high-speed fiberoptic lines. When operated at lower power levels, the chips could also find their way into cell phones, particularly for radio components, analysts said.