EAST FISHKILL, N.Y.--IBM Corp. today announced development of a new silicon-germanium (SiGe) transistor, which is capable of reaching speeds of 210 GHz while drawing only a milliamp of electrical current.
According to IBM, the transistor is the world's fastest silicon-based device announced to date. The transistor, based on a modified design and IBM's SiGe processes, is expected to be used in communications ICs for speeds of 100 GHz within two year, which the company said was four years sooner than recently announced competitive approaches. IBM said its new SiGe transistor is five times faster than any other announced silicon-based transistor.
"Just as aircraft were once believed incapable of breaking an imaginary 'sound barrier', silicon-based transistors were once thought incapable of breaking a 200-GHz speed barrier," said Bernard Meyerson, IBM fellow and vice president of IBM's Communications Research and Development Center. "Makers of high-performance electronics like networking gear are no longer forced to use chips made of exotic and expensive materials to reach these speeds.
"Silicon's future is safe as the preferred medium for chip-making," said Meyerson, a long-time advocate of SiGe technology vs. gallium-arsenide (GaAs) and other compound semiconductor materials.
IBM said the 210-GHz speed and 1-mA current performance of the new SiGe-based transistor represents an 80% speed improvement and a 50% reduction in power consumption over current designs.
About 12 years ago, IBM introduced an improvement to the basic silicon transistor by adding germanium to speed up the electrical flow in the device while reducing power consumption. In the new transistor, IBM said it has combined SiGe material with an improved transistor design that shortens the electrical path to speed up the device.
IBM's SiGe device is based on a "heterojunction bipolar transistor" (HBT) design. In HBTs, the electrical flow is vertical vs. horizontal in standard transistors. IBM said its SiGe process enables the height of transistors to be reduced more easily than other approaches, resulting in a shorter path for the electrical flow and higher performance.
According to IBM, the modified design and improvements in SiGe transistors represents a new plateau for silicon-germanium technology and processes to accelerate the speed of networking systems for Internet access and e-business growth. IBM also expects the new transistor to be used in next-generation cellular phones and other wireless communications products.