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Home » Hacking News » IBM Says New Transistor Is Fastest

IBM Says New Transistor Is Fastest

by ivy on June 25th, 2001 NEW YORK — IBM has built the world's fastest silicon-based transistor, a development that promises to make telecommunications chips run faster on less power, the company said on Monday.

IBM said it plans to bring the transistors to market in two years. The tiny components will power the chips used in mobile phones and fiber optic communications networks.

The transistors perform 80 percent faster than current technology while cutting power consumption in half, said Seshu Subbanna, the engineer who led the development team at IBM's microelectronics plant in East Fishkill, N.Y.

Consumers might notice the transistor's presence through faster Internet access via cable or DSL modems or longer cell phone battery life. The transistors are not compatible with computer microprocessors.

The transistor has been tested at speeds of 100 gigahertz, but can operate at 210 gigahertz — which means it can switch on and off more than 200 billion times per second, said Subbanna.

Such speeds were previously thought beyond the capabilities of silicon, and only reachable in transistors made of exotic materials such as indium phosphide and gallium arsenide, said Stan Bruederle, a semiconductor analyst at Dataquest in San Jose, Calif.

"This is a psychological breakthrough,'' said Subbanna. "This one is about twice as fast as what anyone thought we could do.''

The new transistor uses IBM's electron-speeding silicon germanium technology, but uses a colder manufacturing process to make an ultra-thin active layer. That conductor is positioned vertically instead of horizontally, said Subbanna. The layer's thickness measures just 500 angstroms — a thousandth of a millimeter — or about a quarter the size of current models, he said.

IBM is already working with chipmakers Applied Micro Circuits Corp. and Sierra Monolithics, along with its own microprocessor division and France's Alcatel, to add the new transistors to the next generation of communications chips used in phones and network routers and switches.

Subbanna said IBM was also working with other "unannounced customers.''

Bruederle said the new transistors will stoke competition in the high-speed communications chip industry, challenging chip makers Velocium and Vitesse Semiconductor Corp. — who use non-silicon technology — to innovate even more quickly.

"This is good for competition and innovation in general,'' said Bruederle.

by Associated Press

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