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IBM Transistors Take Quantum Leap

Posted by Parth Barot on June 21, 2006

Wired News Report

IBM has built a transistor that runs about 100 times faster than those found in 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 the exotic chemical element germanium.

The transistor enabled a processor speed of 500 gigahertz, which is more than 100 times the speed of the fastest PC chips sold today, and about 250 times faster than the typical mobile telephone chip, said Bernie Meyerson, head of semiconductor research for IBM. 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. Most improvements in chip speeds over the years have come from shrinking transistor sizes, but IBM’s approach is to fine-tune the silicon on the atomic level, meaning that transistors can be designed from the ground up with very specific applications in mind.

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 transmitting a DVD-quality movie in as little as five seconds.

Source: @ Wired News

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