IBM redesigns silicon transistor for higher speeds

IBM Corp. has created what it calls the world’s fastest silicon-based transistor, which in about two years should be able to drive communications chips to speeds as high as 100GHz, the company announced Monday.

The new transistor can reach speeds of 210GHz while at the same time using only one milliampere of electrical current, IBM said in a statement.

IBM in recent months has announced a number of breakthroughs in transistor technology. In April, Big Blue said it had built what it claims is the first array of transistors made out of carbon nanotubes, material that would allow chips to be made smaller than silicon-based chips.

Carbon nanotubes are tiny cylinders of carbon atoms measuring 10 atoms across and are 500 times smaller than today’s silicon-based transistors and reportedly 1,000 times stronger than steel. The smaller size of carbon nanotube semiconductors allows more transistors to be placed on a chip than is possible using silicon.

Earlier this month, IBM said it had made a breakthrough in chip technology, called “strained silicon.” The strained silicon technology allows for the material to be stretched, thereby speeding the flow of electrons through transistors to increase performance while also decreasing power consumption in semiconductors.

According to IBM, its has been able to speed up silicon-based transistors due to its work with a material called silicon germanium (SiGe), which works as a anchor from which silicon can be stretched. Transistor speeds can be increased when electricity passes through the transistor at faster rates, and the germanium, which IBM introduced in 1989, is able to speed that electrical flow, IBM said.

IBM has now combined the SiGe with a redesigned transistor that works vertically rather than horizontally, actually reducing the size of the transistor and shortening the electrical path, which in turn speeds up the electricity flow, Big Blue said.

IBM, based in Armonk, N.Y., can be reached at

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