IBM 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 latest silicon germanium (SiGe) chip-making technology, extending basic silicon to speeds never thought possible. IBM is now making the technology, called “SiGe 8HP,” 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.
“Many chip-makers are just starting to show they can build SiGe transistors, while we’re into our fourth generation of the technology,” Dr. Bernard Meyerson, IBM Fellow and vice president of the IBM Communications Research and Development Center said in addressing the 2002 Compound Semiconductor Outlook Conference.
“We’re translating SiGe’s benefits into real customer applications. With multiple SiGe technologies, a full suite of design tools, and a significantly expanded R&D operation, we have the resources to help anticipate and meet our customers communications requirements.”
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.
David Rowe, co-founder and chief technology officer for Sierra Monolithics, said, “IBM’s experience in reliable SiGe process technology and SMI’s heritage in high-frequency analog mixed signal IC design, give us an edge in bringing products to market for incredibly high performance applications.”
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. It also demonstrates SiGe’s much lower power consumption than the gallium arsenide and indium phosphide materials traditionally viewed as necessary for such high-speed operations.
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 a range of both 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 is already collaborating on SiGe 8HP circuit designs with select early access customers in the development and qualification stages of commercial wired applications. In a concurrent announcement, IBM also broadened its current SiGe technology offerings with the introduction of two new variants, SiGe 5PA and SiGe 5DM, specifically tailored for wireless communication chip applications.