IBM says it has created the world's fastest semiconductor circuit, operating at speeds of more than 110 GigaHertz (GHz) and processing an electrical signal in 4.3 trillionths of a second.
The circuit was built using IBM's silicon germanium (SiGe) chip-making technology, called "SiGe 8HP," which IBM said will be made available to top-tier communications equipment makers to help increase the speed of networks. The first chips built with the technology are expected to appear later this year.
IBM is already collaborating on SiGe 8HP circuit designs with select customers in the development and qualification stages of commercial wired applications. IBM also announced it has broadened its current SiGe technology offerings with the introduction of two new variants, SiGe 5PA and SiGe 5DM, tailored for wireless communication chip applications.
Sierra Monolithics Inc. has been working with IBM on SiGe integrated circuit designs for communications applications since 1996 and will be one of the first companies to design circuits based on IBM's new technology.
SiGe is a process technology in which the electrical properties of silicon, the material underlying virtually all modern microchips, is augmented with germanium to make the chips operate more efficiently. This technology is already widely deployed in high-speed wired and low-cost wireless gear. In addition, SiGe provides increased integration capabilities, enabling designers to pack more function onto a single chip, resulting in speed, power, cost and weight savings, IBM said.
The "ring oscillator" circuits built by IBM are common building blocks used in communications chip designs and are frequently used to assess the capabilities of new chip-making technology, such as SiGe 8HP. Work with these circuits demonstrates the technology's ability to support communication speeds of over 100 gigabits-per-second, IBM said, and demonstrates SiGe's much lower-power consumption than the gallium arsenide and indium phosphide materials traditionally viewed as necessary for such high-speed operations.