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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

IBM: We've Built Fastest Transistor

EAST FISHKILL, New York -- IBM Corp. on Monday said it has built a transistor, or an electronic switch, that can run at speeds of 350 billion cycles per second -- three times as fast as current technology.

The transistor could lead to building extremely fast microchips, speeding up data transfers in wireless networks, IBM said.

Combining tens of thousands of transistors creates microchips, which are used in everything from cellphones to toasters to computers. This transistor is designed with communications applications in mind, IBM said.

The IBM transistor is built with silicon-germanium, which is made of two materials: silicon, the most widely used semiconductor, and germanium, which is similar to silicon. When silicon and germanium are combined in layers, the transistor can switch faster.

Transistors based on silicon germanium, also called SiGe, can be combined with silicon-based transistors to create high-frequency circuits that are used in mobile phones, optical switches and other communications applications.

IBM said it believes that by using the transistor, it can make a communications chip that runs at 150 gigahertz, or 150 billion cycles per second, within two years. It said that such a chip would require less power and be low cost.

That compares with current top communication chip speeds of about 50 gigahertz, an IBM spokesman said.