Raising the Frequency Threshold
Ordinary silicon cannot offer operation of frequencies above a few gigahertz. This has hampered development of higher-speed wireless telecommunications devices. But IBM researchers and engineers based at IBM facilities in Yorktown Heights NY, East Fishkill, N.Y., and Burlington, Vermont, have installed into manufacturing a silicon germanium (SiGe) technology that has set significant new records for performance standards while maintaining the low costs that are a critical factor in successful wireless-product marketing.
The technology behind SiGe is relatively simple. When silicon and germanium – both well-known semi-conducting elements – are combined, they form the basis of very high-speed transistors that can attain switching speeds well beyond traditional semiconductor capabilities.
Better Speed, Less Power
Semiconductors using SiGe technology can offer speeds of up to 120GHz, expanding on traditional circuit speeds by a factor of two to four. They can also reduce power consumption, offering the powerful combination of better performance and lower power use – magic words to the manufacturers of devices such as cellular phones.
SiGe-based semiconductors are expected to be a powerful complement to high-speed products based on more exotic materials such as gallium arsenide.