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IBM boffins stretch silicon to speed chips 35%

This is the age of the strain

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IBM has figured out how to boost processor speeds by up to 35 per cent for a given transistor size and clock speed.

That said, we'll have to wait until 2003 to see it in commercially available chips.

The new technique, which will be detailed in a paper to be presented at the Symposium on VLSI technology, held in Kyoto next week, forces silicon atoms further apart than they would naturally be by aligning them with a wide grid of substrate atoms. This stretching of the bond between each silicon atom - known as 'straining' in the silicon chemistry trade - has the handy effect of reducing the substance's resistance.

The upshot? Electrons flow more freely - they move up to 70 per cent more quickly, IBM's boffins claim - and so chips operate more quickly too. It also reduces a chip's power requirements. With faster electrons, you need less of a potential difference (the core's voltage) to drive them.

And it "should give us at least a couple of years' lead over the rest of the industry", claimed IBM Microelectronics semiconductor development VP Bijan Davari in a Reuters report.

Davari said he wants to get the technology to market as quickly as possible. If it is indeed commercialised, the 'straining' technique will join copper interconnects and silicon-on-insulator as a key processor production process pioneered by IBM. ®

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