TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: IBM Develops Speedier Transistor

IBM Develops Speedier Transistor

Reuters News Wire (
Tue, 20 Jun 2006 13:28:07 -0500

IBM has built a transistor that runs about 100 times faster than
current chips, a development that could pave the way for ultra-fast
computers and wireless networks, the computing giant said on Monday.

Transistors are the basic building blocks of the processors found in
everything from supercomputers to digital music players, and IBM
achieved the record speeds by building one from silicon laced with
exotic chemical element germanium.

"What we've been doing in the last several years is pushing the
absolute limits of silicon technology," said Bernie Meyerson, head of
semiconductor research for International Business Machines.

"What we've done in demonstrating this is that we're nowhere near
having tapped the limits of silicon performance, and that's very
encouraging," Meyerson said.

The transistor achieved a speed of 500 gigahertz, which is more than
100 times speedier than the fastest PC chips sold today, and about 250
times faster than the typical mobile telephone chip, Meyerson said.

That speed was hit only when IBM researchers, working with
counterparts from the Georgia Institute of Technology, cooled the
transistor to near absolute zero, but Meyerson said the device still
ran at 300 gigahertz at room temperature.

Clay Ryder, president of Sageza Group, a technology market research
firm, said the breakthrough should lead to faster processors, but ones
that will run far below the top speed demonstrated by IBM.

"We can build a (race car) that can go 240 miles per hour, but is that
what you're going to drive to work? No, but you learn things that you
can put in mass-produced cars," Ryder said.

Most improvements in chip speeds over the years have come from
shrinking the size of transistors, but IBM's approach is to tweak the
silicon on the atomic level, meaning that transistors can be designed
from the ground up with very specific applications in mind.

"That means you can have Babe Ruth-style scenarios where you step up
and point the bat to left field and nail a shot there," Meyerson said.

Meyerson forecasts that the advances will show up in real products
within a couple years, probably in chips to power super-fast wireless
networks capable of moving a DVD-quality movie in as little as 5

Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.

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