IBM, Georgia Tech break silicon speed record

June 20, 2006 – IBM and the Georgia Institute of Technology announced that their researchers have demonstrated the first silicon germanium (SiGe) chip capable of operating at ~350GHz at room temperature, and >500GHz at 4.5 Kelvins. Computer simulations suggest that the technology could ultimately support near-THz operational frequencies even at room temperature. The chips used in the research, a prototype fourth-generation SiGe technology fabricated by IBM on 200mm wafers, were “frozen” the chip to near absolute zero (-459.67°F) in order to hit the top GHz mark. By comparison, 500GHz (cycles/sec) is some 250x faster than today’s cell phone chips, which typically operate at approximately 2GHz.

“This groundbreaking collaborative research by Georgia Tech and IBM redefines the performance limits of silicon-based semiconductors,” said Bernie Meyerson, VP and chief technologist, IBM Systems and Technology Group, in a statement.

“This work redefines the upper bounds of what is possible using silicon-germanium nanotechnology techniques,” added John Cressler, Byers Professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and a researcher in the Georgia Electronic Design Center (GEDC) at Georgia Tech.

Better understanding the physics of silicon-germanium devices — and ultimately the circuits that can be built from them — will provide important clues to improvements needed in the future.

Details of the accomplishment, which has been supported by IBM, NASA, and the GEDC, will be reported in the July issue of the journal IEEE Electron Device Letters. — Ed Korczynski, Senior Technology Editor, Solid State Technology


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