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Super-fast Transistors On the Way

CowboyNeal posted about 8 years ago | from the life-in-the-fast-lane dept.

172

nbannerman writes "The BBC is reporting about a new kind of transistor, that recently set a world record of 110Ghz. From the article: 'To achieve the speed gain, researchers at the University of Southampton added fluorine to the silicon devices. The technique uses existing silicon manufacturing technology meaning it should be quick and easy to deploy.' The apparent applications for this process include mobile phones and digital cameras."

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Faster? (4, Insightful)

Asm-Coder (929671) | about 8 years ago | (#15931501)

Maybe we should just get faster software.

Re:Faster? (4, Insightful)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 8 years ago | (#15931521)

It's cheaper to pay a few top engineers to make faster hardware then to pay a mountain of top computer scientists to write stable, fast code. Corel learned that the hardway.

Re:Faster? (-1, Flamebait)

cartel (845256) | about 8 years ago | (#15931802)

Computer scientists should just do things right the first time instead of producing crap (see this [microsoft.com] site for an example).

Re:Faster? (5, Funny)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 8 years ago | (#15931918)

It's cheaper to pay a few top engineers to make faster hardware then to pay a mountain of top computer scientists to write stable, fast code.

Yeah, because if the cpu is fast enough, even unstable code works better!

Re:Faster? (4, Insightful)

Carthag (643047) | about 8 years ago | (#15932016)

It's the old "stable, fast, on schedule; pick two" -- the faster the chip is, the more likely you can concentrate on writing stable code on schedule and make up for the slowness with processor speed.

Re:Faster? (2, Funny)

sjwt (161428) | about 8 years ago | (#15932067)

Due to economic downsizing, you now have a choice of 'pick one, so long as its fast'

Where does that expression come from, anyway? (1)

PapayaSF (721268) | about 8 years ago | (#15932546)

It's the old "stable, fast, on schedule; pick two"
Very true, and at the risk of drifting offtopic, I first heard this "three qualities, pick two" proverb over 30 years ago under the title of "The Printer's Triangle": the corners were labeled Good, Fast, and Cheap and the caption was "Pick any two." Does anyone know the origin of this bit of wisdom? Do other businesses have other versions?

That's right (2, Funny)

roman_mir (125474) | about 8 years ago | (#15932139)

because if the CPU is fast enough then the software just won't have any time to fail, because it will be very occupied trying to not fall behind the processor. All of the software failures are due to high stress that software is experiencing and the faster the computers are the less time there is for the software to stress, thus it doesn't think about being bloated with all that dead weight and terrible algorythms that much and doesn't get depressed that easily.

Re:That's right (1)

budgenator (254554) | about 8 years ago | (#15932393)

i loaded an old word processor that ran in a window manager layer running on top of msdos 6.22 from a 12 MHz '286 on a 1 GHz pentium, it was just insanely fast; this new break-through might make the next new version of windows ship on time.

Re:Faster? (1)

exley (221867) | about 8 years ago | (#15931961)

Coming from someone in the semiconductor industry, hardware (at least, when we're talking chips), is quite often MUCH more expensive than software. Chip designers make a decent buck, and manufacturing is expensive. Not only is fabbing chips expensive, it is frequently time consuming (we're talking weeks of turnaround time in many cases for a new spin of a chip). And of course, time is money. If something can be fixed in software, that has the potential to be done much quicker than hardware changes. This can even be said for non-silicon issues (boards, etc.).

Obviously, things depend on the scale of the project, and the quality of those involved. But from my experience software is cheaper and faster to fix. If Corel found a way to reverse things, it's their fault for hiring shitty code monkeys :)

Re:Faster? (1)

x2A (858210) | about 8 years ago | (#15932293)

On widely used software, yeah, it'd be quicker/cheaper to fix the software. But for all the one-offs out there, running individual shops/businesses/etc, it costs less to pay one company to design/build a faster processor, than it does to pay hundreds of thousands of software developers to be able to improve the hundreds of thousands of pieces of software out there.

Comes down to numbers.

Re:Faster? not funny !! (1)

tuomoks (246421) | about 8 years ago | (#15931882)

Maybe OT but so true.. Just came home from work, someone asked me to write a test program for our product. So - 1h with Delphi ( works in Wine perfectly and compiles in Kylix for Linux people ) and I had a test performance program emulating 5000+ ( any number IP addresses.. ) terminals through raw sockets ( you build the headers.. ) creating tunneled test traffic and keeping statistics/timings/random test patterns/,, Now - the product doesn't do much except route the requests / replies, etc.. --- My 2.4GHz dual system is ~2% busy when the product running in a decent size IBM / AIX system tops 100%, 110tx / sec ( not bad BUT..) So - it is the sad truth, we do need faster programs !! It is not difficult, just KISS ! But unfortunately I have heard that faster HW solves the problem, what!!, 35+ years in this busines and never seen it - still waiting..
Now, of course as so many have said, this technology is ( at least ) not yet valid for faster computers but for digital processing ( big difference. ) Anyway - I think that the SW skills have somehow gone "a little" down lately - just IMHO.. And, of course, this is OT..

Re:Faster? (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 8 years ago | (#15932095)

Maybe we should just get faster software.

What?!? You should be glad to have Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office and other fine software products from Microsoft and other bloatware producers. It's the All-American, Blown-V8, 4x4 of software!

just because you don't like the gas mileage, don't hate the toy

My biggest problem with these super fast transistors is soldering them into my ArcherKit P-Box

Re:Faster? (1)

Alternator (995114) | about 8 years ago | (#15932164)

But if we had faster more responsive software where would we get our micro-pauses to prevent oos??

Re:Faster? (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about 8 years ago | (#15932377)

"Maybe we should just get faster software."

That takes more time and more talent to write. It'd be a pain in the butt if mobile phone or digital camera processors were so slow everything had to be super optimized just to be useful. Heck, I remember using one of the first digital cameras. Relatively speaking, it took forever just for it to capture, encode, and save the image to memory. Nowadays you can get cameras that take the pictures super fast. I say we should have faster processing AND better software. Not just one or the other.

Mobile Phones? (3, Funny)

terminateprocess (812697) | about 8 years ago | (#15931503)

Now remind me why exactly we need 110GhZ moblie phone processors?

Re:Mobile Phones? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15931527)

Transistors idiot, RTFA.

They're useful to handle data and signals.

Re:Mobile Phones? (1)

terminateprocess (812697) | about 8 years ago | (#15931563)

Yes, but those same transistors are used to create processors. The article claims that 70GhZ transistor technology allows the potential for 7GhZ chips. 110GhZ technology would allow 11GhZ chips. I meant the first post sarcastically, but why would mobile phones be one of the primary applications for faster transistors?

Re:Mobile Phones? (3, Informative)

Formica (775485) | about 8 years ago | (#15931606)

11 GHz chip != 11 GHz processor. They're mainly talking about analog chips - i.e. op-amps, oscillators, high speed muxes, etc. Chips like these: http://www.maxim-ic.com/solutions/cellular_handset s/index.mvp?pl_pk=14 [maxim-ic.com] http://www.analog.com/en/subCat/0,2879,770%255F851 %255F0%255F%255F0%255F,00.html [analog.com]

Re:Mobile Phones? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15931664)

Now that you posted the misinformation, Microsoft will raise their system requirements beyond what processors are capa.....

On second thought, post all kinds of misinformation like this, then Microsoft will spec themselves out of business. ;)

Re:Mobile Phones? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15931891)

Jesus fucking Christ, it's GHz not GhZ, you babboon.

Re:Mobile Phones? (5, Informative)

swg101 (571879) | about 8 years ago | (#15931960)

Actually, the article says that they created a BJT transistor
"The research was carried out using a simple type of transistor known as a silicon bipolar transistor."
Processors use FET transistors because BJT transistors need current to bias them all the time. These transistors would consume way too much power to make any sort of processor (especially for mobile devices). As others have commented, this would only be useful for the analog processing of the output transmitter.

Re:Mobile Phones? (2, Informative)

justthisdude (779510) | about 8 years ago | (#15932325)

If you are looking at a little more clarity on why mobile phones, you need to think about radios and signal processing. To digitally sample a signal, you need to sample it at least twice the highest frequency (this is the Nyquist frequency). If you want to create or receive a cell phone signal (around 2 GHz) you need to sample it around 5 GHz, and to digitally process what you receive, you need to be processing at these higher speeds. Without such speeds, receivers and transmitters need to use analog electronics to modulate slower digital signals up to 2GHz, and analog electronics are not flexible. I said 2 GHZ, but some cells are 1.8GHZ, some 1.9GHz, and so on. If you do it all digitally, then changing cellular systems and frequencies becomes a software issue rather than a hardware issue. Now you can use a single phone for CDMA and GSM networks. Carriers can upgrade or switchover their networks without having to get people to trade in their phones. The people really salivating over this are probably the DOD's JTRS software radio people who are trying to make a single radio to handle all military waveforms under 2 GHz (assuming the war didn't swallow their funding).

Re:Mobile Phones? (2, Funny)

BSonline (989394) | about 8 years ago | (#15931533)

Because faster is better. Don't you remember high school cheerleaders?

Re:Mobile Phones? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15932153)

You must be new here... nobody here got that close to a cheerleader in high school.

Re:Mobile Phones? (1)

megaditto (982598) | about 8 years ago | (#15932178)

Hmm, in that case, substitute 'NG Resonance' for cheerleader.

NOW you see why you'd want faster phones to run the distributed AI?

Mobile Phones?-PADs (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15931539)

"Now remind me why exactly we need 110GhZ moblie phone processors?"

So the future will get here faster.

Mod the parent upwards! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15931685)

So the future will get here faster.


Precisely! We agree completely.

Signed,
SACFTF
Slashdot Anonymous Cowards For The Future

-----EQUAL REPRESENTATION-----

Listen you "big A-C" Anonymous Cowards, we're against the future. Technology ruined our lives, remember when trolls used to live under bridges? Now we live in basements or apartments. We should go backwards, not forwards!

Signed,
SACATF
Slashdot Anonymous Cowards Against The Future.

Re:Mobile Phones?-PADs (2, Funny)

telchine (719345) | about 8 years ago | (#15931686)

I keep waiting for the future to come, but all I ever see is the present.

Re:Mobile Phones? (5, Informative)

Formica (775485) | about 8 years ago | (#15931543)

They're talking about transistors, not entire processors. High speed transistors are needed for the RF front-end, where analog signals up to 1 GHz or so are encountered. These signals require devices that can switch at speeds significantly faster than the signal frequency. Formica

Re:Mobile Phones? (1)

sgbett (739519) | about 8 years ago | (#15931544)

I've no idea, not only do they they appear to be 11GHz short, but they've screwed up the units AND the decimal places.

Re:Mobile Phones? (5, Informative)

Trouvist (958280) | about 8 years ago | (#15931550)

The faster the chip cycles, the higher the communication frequency can be. It is difficult to do noise-reduction calculations on ultra-high frequency communications without chips that cycle at the rate of data transmission.

Re:Mobile Phones? (2, Interesting)

modecx (130548) | about 8 years ago | (#15932361)

I'm sorry? Using "ultra-high frequency communications" would serve no purpose as an application to cell communication, unless you cherish the idea of cell companies needing to put a tower every few hundred yards, having your phone put out enough radiation to cook your brains, having your signal blocked by a little bit of rain, and not being able to use your phone whilst inside buildings with walls thicker than cellophane.

Cellphones use the frequencies they use not because it's the best that technology can do, they use those frequencies because it's the most practical way to do it.

CPUs and Data Compression (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15931564)

Back in the days of 486 I couldn't decode fullscreen MPEG1. MPEG2 couldn't be done at all because the processor wasn't fast enough. Are there any compresison codecs that we could use with a ridiculously fast phone CPU (or home computer, actually?)

Re:CPUs and Data Compression (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | about 8 years ago | (#15931736)

Phones don't do all of the codec in software. Imagine a hardware assited CELP codec :-)

Tom

Power Consumption (3, Interesting)

grahamsz (150076) | about 8 years ago | (#15931599)

Remember that when a CMOS gate is switching the current flowing through it increases. The faster the gate is able to switch, the less power will be used in the state change. Now the processor doesn't have to run at anywhere near that speed, but the fast transistor switch will minimize the power per cycle.

Re:Power Consumption (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15931658)

Shame this is for bipolar transistors, not FETs, and the contribution of the effect you're talking about is pretty small anyway. :-\

Re:Power Consumption (3, Informative)

dunkers (845588) | about 8 years ago | (#15931766)

The gate will only switch faster for the same, or less, current if the gate capacitance is decreased - i.e. you make the device physically smaller. If the capacitance stays the same then you must bung in current faster to achieve faster switching. Faster switching may reduce the power cycle (time), but on its own it doesn't reduce the power requirements.

Re:Power Consumption (4, Informative)

dpilot (134227) | about 8 years ago | (#15931832)

You're both right.

You are talking about basic c*v**2 current, and he's talking about shoot-through current during the transition. Though one normally doesn't fuss too hard about shoot-through unless slew rates are really slow. But then again, it wasn't that many years ago that device standby leakage was nearly negligible, instead of being a substantial fraction of the active current, like it is today. For that matter, the scope traces I've seen of high-speed clocks look a heck of a lot more like a sine wave than a logic pulse, but at this point we're stressing capabilities of the measurment electonics, too.

Re:Power Consumption (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15932163)

Once you get both sides running at this speed, you run into the problem of particle gates switching so fast that the apex of the thru put curve is both on(1) AND off(0). Fixing that is feasible but expensive...

Re:Power Consumption (1)

megaditto (982598) | about 8 years ago | (#15932170)

Ever scoped a tunnel diode?

*hides

Re:Power Consumption (1)

ScrappyLaptop (733753) | about 8 years ago | (#15932515)

Oh, right (nodding head appreciatively), now I...Zzzzzzz

Re:Power Consumption (5, Informative)

wontonenigma (451597) | about 8 years ago | (#15931892)

From the article:
The research was carried out using a simple type of transistor known as a silicon bipolar transistor.
RTFA

This isn't about CMOS, for a change. This is about analog power amplification and the 100GHz figure quoted is either the maximum frequency of current or power amplification. Too bad the BBC doesn't say.

Most cell phones contain one Gallium Arsenide bipolar transistor to amplify the signal going to the antenna. This faster Silicon transistor would open up other transmission frequencies but it wouldn't make that game of Alchemy play any faster.

Bi-polar not CMOS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15931975)

RTFA, this is talking about bipolar trannies, not CMOS.

Re:Bi-polar not CMOS (2, Funny)

Ig0r (154739) | about 8 years ago | (#15932187)

"Bipolar trannies" sound very scary.

Re:Power Consumption (4, Informative)

1zenerdiode (777004) | about 8 years ago | (#15931999)

Yeah, except TFA says the gains were achieved with modified BJT technology, which is not CMOS. In addition, the faster that you switch COMPLIMENTARY (that's the C) MOS structures, the larger the shoot-through current (this is the current that flows between the power supply rails as each transistor in the complimentary structure is temporarily partially conducting). In microprocessors and memory cells, these are responsible for huge transient current requirements, and get worse as the clock frequency is increased.

The reason that the development is significant is not from a microprocessor standpoint - it means that the front end amplifiers and mixers that have to run at the highest frequencies can be fabricated using more cost-effective manufacturing techniques. This is assuming that the article is correct in stating the development concerns BJT's. Hell knows why they showed a photo of a non-populated circuit board, but hey, it's the media. Guess you have dial your expectations lower.

But these are BIPOLAR transistors! (2, Insightful)

PaulBu (473180) | about 8 years ago | (#15932038)

Hey, it is "standard" "silicon" process, but they compete with other GaAs/InP/SiGe bipolar transistors, not yoru garden variety CMOS FETs -- and for other technologies Ft of more than 100GHz is not unheard of. Neat trick, and you will see them in your cellphone front-end, maybe soon, but do not hold your breath for 20GHz processors (and if someone makes 'em, please *do not hold them with your bare hands*! -- they gonna be HOT!) ;-)

Paul B.

Re:Mobile Phones? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15931601)

So my shiny new video-enabled phone will respond instantaneously to button-presses.

Like my LCD-based phones from 10 years ago used to.

Not for processors (1)

ja (14684) | about 8 years ago | (#15931623)

This transistor is for modulating the radiowawes, not for driving your java-games.

Re:Mobile Phones? (1)

AgNO3 (878843) | about 8 years ago | (#15931804)

So when you are out cheating on your wife she can imput a special code and melts your nuts. Its DRM, Dick rights managment.

Re:Mobile Phones? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15932268)

GhZ ??

GigahertZ?

GHz.

Maybe. . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15931505)

newbies will use this technology to grab the first post in every thread on ./?

Re:Maybe. . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15931565)

Looks like you could use it anyway :P

Ahh (1)

ezwip (974076) | about 8 years ago | (#15931507)

But will teh quality of my pron be any better?

As an added benefit... (5, Funny)

nebaz (453974) | about 8 years ago | (#15931509)

added fluorine to the silicon devices

Not only will the transistors be faster, but whiter and shinier, they won't need to floss.

Re:As an added benefit... (1)

kfg (145172) | about 8 years ago | (#15931562)

. . .the fluorine creates small clusters of vacancies. . .

Apparently transistors aren't made of teeth. Go figure.

KFG

Nonono (1)

jd (1658) | about 8 years ago | (#15931644)

The vacancies are clearly left when the transistor dentists lose their jobs. The clusters are an obvious reference to the dentists all going by the name Beowulf.

Call General Jack D. Ripper on this one... (2, Funny)

Cade144 (553696) | about 8 years ago | (#15931681)

This sounds like a plot to sap our vitality by adding Flourine to impurify our sacred bodily fluids ^H^H^H^H^H transistors.
Oh, for those who have never seen it, the silly reference [wikipedia.org] is from Dr. Strangeglove [imdb.com] .

Re:As an added benefit... (4, Informative)

GeckoX (259575) | about 8 years ago | (#15931811)

Um, sure, but you've got the wrong substance in mind.

Fluorine: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluorine [wikipedia.org]

Fluoride: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluoride [wikipedia.org]

There would be some pretty serious differences betweent the two. Neither is good for you to ingest, but one is just REALLY BAD to get anywhere near you at all!

Re:As an added benefit... (1)

WalksOnDirt (704461) | about 8 years ago | (#15932264)

Fluoride is a form of fluorine. If you add trace amounts of fluorine to silicon you're going to end up with fluoride anyhow.

Re:As an added benefit... (2, Funny)

lubricated (49106) | about 8 years ago | (#15932342)

they are both the same element. Just a slightly differenet amount of electrons. You really are nitpicking over a joke. Fluoride is still Flourine.

Re:As an added benefit... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15932348)

What's more, your microwave hardware will never have tuned cavities...

Snakes on a Plain!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15931535)

TOMORROW! yes!

But use of such mobile phones and cameras... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15931549)

...might taint your precious bodily fluids.

Re:But use of such mobile phones and cameras... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15931741)

Stop worrying and learn to love it. I for one welcome our new flourinated overlords.

Re:But use of such mobile phones and cameras... (1)

shotgunsaint (968677) | about 8 years ago | (#15932238)

That's why I cool my electonics with only pure grain alcohol and rain water.

Real-world benefits? (3, Funny)

FlyByPC (841016) | about 8 years ago | (#15931556)

...so this means that Flight Simulator X will run at 10fps instead of 5?

Re:Real-world benefits? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15932368)

Are you talking about software I work on?

These are bipolar devices (1)

tool462 (677306) | about 8 years ago | (#15931560)

TFA didn't mention what effect this process has on CMOS devices, which is probably more relevant since this is what is used in most digital design these days (and a lot of analog as well). Bipolar devices take up more area and tend to consume a lot more power, among other things. But if this speeds up MOSFETs, then they're really on to something...

Re:These are bipolar devices (5, Funny)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | about 8 years ago | (#15931572)

Couldn't they add some Lithium too?

bipolar transistors (1)

dlenmn (145080) | about 8 years ago | (#15931624)

The article says they did this with bipolar transistors. I recall from my intro electronics class that most integrated circuits are CMOS (built with field effect transistors) because in general they are faster and use less power than equivalent TTL circuits (built with bipolar transistors). If this is true, does this new process make TTL chips more attractive for (at least some) applications?

Re:bipolar transistors (5, Informative)

Andy Dodd (701) | about 8 years ago | (#15931705)

No, because whenever Slashdot covers these ultra-high-frequency transistors, they never bother mentioning that there's a huge difference between transistors optimized for logic (always on/off, usually very high drive levels and low gain, fast switching of square waves) and transistors designed for RF signal amplification (Usually designed for linear amplification of sinusoidal or modulated sinusoidal signals, lower drive levels with higher gain, and no one cares about the switching time, just the highest frequency sinusoid at which the device exhibits gain.) In essentially every case, the article is covering amplification of a signal at the record-setting frequency, not operation of a logic gate at that frequency.

There is also a very good chance that while the manufacturing process may be suitable for single (relatively) large tranistors (perfectly suitable, and often desireable for RF), it is not suitable for integrated circuits with multiple tranistors and other components on a die. Gallium Arsenide is a perfect example of this - The IC industry gave up on it pretty quickly because it was simply too difficult to make integrated circuits with it and the performance benefits for logic circuits weren't worth the costs, but manufacturers of RF transistors are still putting large amounts of effort into GaAs and plenty of commercial products exist. (Yes, there are still issues with GaAs technology and a lot of companies still don't trust GaAs in their products except in low-volume high-performance applications, but it's not like logic circuits where nothing exists on the market.)

Same thing with IBM's big SiGe push - great for RF but doesn't seem to have made any inroads to logic, probably due to cost issues and technical problems that make SiGe potentially unsuitable for logic but don't really affect their RF performance.

Re:bipolar transistors (4, Informative)

Andy Dodd (701) | about 8 years ago | (#15931755)

And before anyone brings up that TFA does mention "clocking", the impression I get is that the writer of the article isn't very technically literate and doesn't really understand the difference between RF circuitry and clocked logic circuitry. See the comment about mobile phones operating in the 1 GHz range - even the fastest smartphones have a CPU clock speed of only 400-500 MHz at most, but mobile phones have been operating with RF carriers close to 1 GHz (specifically 800 and 900 MHz) for 15-20 years, and the 1.8 and 1.9 GHz bands have been in use for close to a decade too. Satellite communications systems frequently operate in the 10-20 GHz region. I don't see any case where the researchers are directly quoted talking about using their new developments for logic circuitry, but a few where they are implying using the new stuff for RF.

IBM SiGe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15932526)

"Same thing with IBM's big SiGe push - great for RF but doesn't seem to have made any inroads to logic, probably due to cost issues and technical problems that make SiGe potentially unsuitable for logic but don't really affect their RF performance."

IBM SiGe is a BiCMOS process. This means it integrates SiGe bipolar transistors with standard CMOS. The bipolar component of the technology is not intended for logic, except perhaps for low-density, very-high-speed logic in limited patches. Rather, the bipolar is intended as an analog/RF device, with the integrated CMOS handling the logic. Ideal applications include chips that combine an RF or high-speed analog front end with a digital baseband, which is why the technology has made great inroads into cellular front ends, WiFi, GPS, optical transceivers and test instrumentation circuits (i.e. front ends for high-speed oscilloscopes). The reason you don't see SiGe making huge logic inroads is two-fold: (a) the bipolar doesn't do enough in such applications to justify the cost of the extra processing steps needed to add the bipolar and (b) since the technology leverages existing CMOS baseline processes, the CMOS is typically a generation behind the most state-of-the-art CMOS only process. In summary, SiGe is best suited to chips that require integrating very high performance RF/analog with logic but where the logic doesn't need to be the very fastest.

That said, SiGe bipolar transistors hit the 110GHz (referring to an RF metric known as f-sub-T) point about 5 years ago and it's not clear that these devices are really that much cheaper (much of the cost of SiGe comes from other add-ons such as resistors, capacitors and the like, required to make complete RF circuits, rather than from the growth of the SiGe layer).

Only 11Ghz (0, Redundant)

legomad (596194) | about 8 years ago | (#15931667)

quoting from the article: "When the researchers tested the new device it clocked a speed of 110 GHz. Complete circuits usually operate at about a tenth of the speed of the component transistors meaning the new devices could allow engineers to build chips that operate at a speed of about 11GHz. The previous world record, held by electronic giant Philips, created transistors that operate at speeds of up to 70GHz, allowing operating circuit speeds of 7GHz." http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/5259594.stm [bbc.co.uk]

Apparent applications? (1)

MasterC (70492) | about 8 years ago | (#15931671)

The apparent applications for this process include mobile phones and digital cameras.


Tell me, what digital device would not benefit from shorter switching times?

Re:Apparent applications? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15931871)

An abacus.

Re:Apparent applications? (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 8 years ago | (#15932020)

I'm onclear on that too. I thought the main limitation on processors these days was 1) energy dissipation and 2) latency between transistors, as in, the time it takes light to travel 1 or 2 cm. Is that true, and do faster transistors help with those issues?

Re:Apparent applications? (1)

vistic (556838) | about 8 years ago | (#15932282)

An old style videogame machine.

You'll be dead before your finger can push the button.

Re:Apparent applications? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15932504)

The devices here are BJTs, not MOSFETS. Virtually no digital devices are made with BJTs these days, due to their high power draw.

Interestingly, most early supercomputers (such as many Cray systems in the 70s and 80s) were made with BJTs because of the faster switching time. This was before MOSFETS were up to snuff there, and they didn't really care about power consumption.

Floride in children's ice cream? (2, Funny)

cpopin (671433) | about 8 years ago | (#15931770)

Ripper: A foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids without the knowledge of the individual, and certainly without any choice. That's the way your hard core commie works. Mandrake: Jack... Jack, listen, tell me, ah... when did you first become, well, develop this theory. Ripper: Well, I ah, I-I first became aware of it, Mandrake, during the physical act of love. From Dr. Strangelove [twinisles.com]

MOSFET Application (4, Informative)

dduardo (592868) | about 8 years ago | (#15931776)

I believe this technique would speed up MOSFETs as well because they are saying that the added fluorine doesn't allow the boron to diffuse into the silcon as much. This means you'll have a cleaner line between the p-type and n-type dopped regions. In terms of MOSFETs you could inject the flourine under the gate so when you dope the silicon to create the source and drain you won't have overlap you normaly get under the gate. This means you could reduce the gate to drain and gate to source capacitances which kills the high frequencies.

Re:MOSFET Application (5, Funny)

dcapel (913969) | about 8 years ago | (#15932173)

Truely now, how many people modded this insightful because they didn't understand it?

Re:MOSFET Application (4, Informative)

strider44 (650833) | about 8 years ago | (#15932262)

Two. The other two people who modded it modded it informative because they didn't understand it.

Not really the fastest transistor... (4, Informative)

Manchot (847225) | about 8 years ago | (#15931798)

Sure, it might be the fastest silicon BJT, but as TFA alludes to, there are InGaAs HBTs that are functionally equivalent to BJTs and have cutoff frequencies of 710 GHz. Specifically, I'm talking about the one discussed in this paper [aip.org] by Milton Feng's group at the University of Illinois.

Re:Not really the fastest transistor... (2, Informative)

swg101 (571879) | about 8 years ago | (#15931996)

From your link:
The performance of a 0.25×3 m2 pseudomorphic heteojunction bipolar transistors achieves peak fT of 710 GHz (fMAX=340 GHz)... (emphasis mine)

So, maximum achievable frequency is actually quite a bit lower than 710GHz.

Also, the article acknowledges that faster transistors exist ("Alternative approaches for building fast transistors exist but they use other materials, such as gallium arsenide or a silicon germanium mix, which require more expensive manufacturing techniques."), but this is a method that can be adapted to existing silicon manufacturing processes.

The article also qualified the claim ("...set a new world record for the fastest transistor of its type."), but of course this is not as sensational of a headline, so did not make it into the summary.

Re:Not really the fastest transistor... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15932444)

That's not what fMAX means. At all. fmax a figure of merit that indicates the maximum frequency where a device has *power* gain. The other figure of merit, fT, is the highest frequency where a device exhibits current gain (i.e. gain = 1 at freqency=ft). The paper above indeed operates at 710 GHz, with a current gain of 1. Gain will increase by 20 dB for every order of magnitude of lower frequency (i.e. gain = 20 dB at frequency = 71 GHz). The most useful devices will have a balanced ft and fmax. Ft is typically more favorable for digital circuit design, and fmax more useful for analog design (as a general rule of thumb)

Since you don't design amplifiers with a gain of 1, you don't see circuits operating at frequencies around ft. One also has to account for loading of the interconnects and the overhead of driving other components, which also reduces the maximum frequency of operation for chips. Transistors in the latest and greatest pentiums are well above 200 GHz (silicon CMOS), and IBM has SiGe HBTs (a variant of a BJT) above 350 GHz.

But I'm sure you already knew that. After all, what else can fmax mean but the *MAXIMUM* frequency of operation (emphasis mine).

how does it work? (0, Redundant)

thePig (964303) | about 8 years ago | (#15931812)

The article is very less on details.
Anybody can explain on the process here?

Fuck yankdot (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15931883)

And you too, shitbag

Purpose? (2, Interesting)

treak007 (985345) | about 8 years ago | (#15931914)

Why would the prime purpose of this be cameras and cell phones, rather then computers.

OMG that would be hard to use. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15931972)

At 100 GHz the wavelength is 3 cm. A quarter wave line would be 0.75 cm. This thing is operating at a frequency well above that at which it is easy/feasible to use a printed circuit board. To operate at this frequency I would have to spend a whole pile of money so I could use hybrid IC techniques. Or I could figure out how to couple this device to waveguide. AARGH!

The magic word Slashdot asks me to type to prove that I'm not a robot is 'hospital'. How very appropriate 'cause that's where I would end up if I tried to use this sucker.

OMG that would be hard to fit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15932356)

"Or I could figure out how to couple this device to waveguide. AARGH!"

I work in satellite communications and couple waveguides all the time.*

*Alright now! Get your mind out of the gutter.

--
"The magic word Slashdot asks me to type to prove that I'm not a robot is 'hospital'."

Mine's "unproven".

BJTs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15932007)

We have transistors that can operate at 100GHz - we have for a while. They're called BJTs. Only problem is it would cost waaaaaay more to manufacture a 50M transistor chip than other semiconductor designs. You never know, but really I am highly doubtful of the cost of this.

W Band (1)

ElephanTS (624421) | about 8 years ago | (#15932021)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W_band [wikipedia.org]

Apparently this freq is known as W-band microwave radiation. Useful for millimetre wave radar apparently - you know the machine that can see through clothes at the airport? Wonder if this is why they are researching it? Anyone know better than me? Will my kids have real X-ray specs?

What about heat? (1)

ZonkerWilliam (953437) | about 8 years ago | (#15932114)

I'm curious to see what kind of heat these transistors would generate, as thats a growing problem already.

Guess what else (1)

queenb**ch (446380) | about 8 years ago | (#15932286)

I'd like to speculate about some uses for these new goodies....

1. Faster Cash Registers (Wal-mart, are you listening???)
2. Faster ATM's (though I admit it's usually the dufus in front of me & not the machine that's the problem)
3. Faster calculators (for all you toe counters out there)
4. Faster gas pumps (so we can fund the terrorists we're fighting more effectively)
5. Faster Coffee makers (I don't know if making the programmable stuff faster will actually make the brew faster, but one can only hope)

2 cents,

QueenB

Listen Up You Primitive Screwheads... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15932297)

This here's my BIPOLAR TRANSISTOR. I design analog circuits with it and it's got an Ft of 110 GHz.

I don't design digital circuits with bipolar devices. I design digital circuits with CMOS devices. Bipolar sucks power but it runs fast. CMOS sips power but it run's slower.

And if I'm going to design anything usefull with it, that thing is going to operate at about 1/10th of the cut-off frequency (Ft).

This ain't about 110 GHz CPUs.

This is about Op Amps and Phase Lock Loops.

I know that Circuits 101 was a long time ago for some of you folks, but really.

Yikes! Flourine is nasty stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15932318)

Flourine is about as nasty a substance as you'll find anywhere. It's used in oil refineries. Even a slight exposure to the gas will cause all the calcium to leech out of your bones and you'll die screaming in agony as you very literally turn to a jellyfish. Not to worry though, the process only takes 4-6 hours.

You REALLY don't want to live anywhere near an oil refinery. Seriously.

Re:Yikes! Flourine is nasty stuff (2, Interesting)

budgenator (254554) | about 8 years ago | (#15932469)

Yeah right, boy that sounds like one for mythbusters right after they do the 15Kt bic lighter/welder spark episode. Exposure to large amount of fluorine gas is a bad thing and probably fatal, but that's mostly do the extreme oxidising potential of fluorine and poisoning multiple emzymes rather than decalcification in fact fluorine is added to teeth to recalcify them and to turn some of the calcium hypatite into calcium flourite to increase the teeth's decay resistance, literally turning some of the tooth into the rock fluorite.

Am I the only one... (1)

istartedi (132515) | about 8 years ago | (#15932319)

...who reads something like this, and hearkens back to the days when people thought stuff like this would lead to some sort of golden age, and then to hear that it will simply make "better phones and cameras" is kind of disappointing. I know the prior attitude was a lot of idealistic pie-in-the-sky, flying-car, jet-pack, white building, monorail nonsense. Still though. I miss it. Oh... bring back Donald Duck with his doors to the future, and the nuclear powered airplane. Please? For just a moment?

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