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IBM And Georgia Tech Break Silicon Speed Record

IBM and the Georgia Institute of Technology announced today that their researchers have demonstrated the first silicon-based chip capable of operating at frequencies above 500 GHz -- 500 billion cycles per second -- by cryogenically "freezing" the chip to 451 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (4.5 Kelvins). Such extremely cold temperatures are found naturally only in outer space, but can be artificially achieved on Earth using ultra-cold materials such as liquid helium. (Absolute Zero, the coldest possible temperature in nature, occurs at minus 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit).

By comparison, 500 GHz is more than 250 times faster than today's cell phones, which typically operate at approximately 2 GHz. Computer simulations suggest that the silicon-germanium (SiGe) technology used in the chip could ultimately support even higher (near-TeraHertz – 1,000 GHz) operational frequencies even at room temperature.

The experiments, conducted jointly by IBM and Georgia Tech researchers, are part of a project to explore the ultimate speed limits of silicon-germanium (SiGe) devices, which operate faster at very cold temperatures. The chips used in the research are from a prototype fourth-generation SiGe technology fabricated by IBM on a 200-millimeter wafer. At room temperature, they operated at approximately 350 GHz.

“For the first time, Georgia Tech and IBM have demonstrated that speeds of half a trillion cycles per second can be achieved in a commercial silicon-based technology, using large wafers and silicon-compatible low-cost manufacturing techniques,” said John D. 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. “This work redefines the upper bounds of what is possible using silicon-germanium nanotechnology techniques.”

Source: IBM

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