24 February 2002 Hardware giant IBM is expected to announce today that it has created the world’s fastest integrated circuit.
The new chip is based on a material pioneered by IBM researchers called silicon germanium, which uses a layer of germanium to speed up processing times while still taking advantage of the lower cost of silicon.
The new chip – which will be sold to makers of fibre optic switches and other high-speed networking devices – runs at more than 110 gigahertz and can handle 40 billion bits of information a second, making it suitable for the latest standard high-speed rate of data transmission. Moreover, it will consume the same amount of electricity as chips handling the current 10 billion bit standard.
According to IC Insights, an Arizona-based IT market research company, IBM has at least 80% of the silicon germanium market – which it says was worth around $320 million (€365.8m) in 2001, and is forecast to grow to $2.7 billion (€3.09bn) by 2006. IBM executives say the chip is already being trialled by some customers and will be in volume production by the end of 2002.
Other companies working with silicon germanium include Conexant Systems, which claims to have designed a transistor that runs at 200 gigahertz. However, Conexant does not expect to have working integrated circuits until 2003.