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IBM, AMD unveil terahertz transistor breakthroughs

My chip is smaller than your chip

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Male semiconductor engineers are the only men on the planet who boast about how their private parts are much smaller than everyone else's and how quickly they're through using them. This week at the 2001 International Electron Devices Meeting, held in Washington DC, there will much little-but-rapid swinging dickery.

AMD, for instance, today announced a transistor which it claims possesses the "fastest switching speeds yet reported in the semiconductor industry": 3300GHz, 3.3 terahertz (THz). Intel announced a terahertz transistor design of its own last week (it will reveal full details at IEDM), and IBM made a similar announcement today, of a 2THz transistor.

AMD's feat is achieved on an experimental 0.015 micron transistor, the basis for future AMD processors, the company claims, which will be capable of delivering ten times the performance of today's processors by the end of the decade. This puts AMD at "the forefront of transistor design", according to Craig Sander, VP of AMD's technology development group, though we're sure Intel and IBM would disagree.

IBM's IEDM presentations will centre on its 'double gate' transistor design which, the company claims, can achieve three goals in one: "[to] carry twice the electrical current, operate at up to twice the speed and be reduced in size well below today's conventional transistors". The transistor is intended to built using a silicon-on-insulator construction.

The double-gate transistor will allow transistors to switch on and off quickly even as they shrink to the point where traditional transistor designs cease to function - so tiny are the gates that control the flow of electricity through the transistor that current leaks through the gate, keeping the device on even when it is off, as it were.

Says IBM: "In a double-gate transistor, the transistor's channel is surrounded by two gates, doubling control of the current and enabling significantly smaller, faster and lower-power circuits." ®

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