UK engineers claims to run chip at record speed

Engineers at the University of Southampton have set a world record, running a bipolar transistor at a heat-inducing 110GHz.

Boffins at the university's School of Electronics and Computer Science discovered that by adding fluorine "implants" to the base of a bi-polar transistor, it could be made narrower, allowing more rapid electron transit and higher frequencies.

The fluorine disperses a phenomenon known as "boron diffusion", which demands larger, and therefore slower, micro-componentry. The team believes there is potential to reduce boron diffusion by a further 50 percent.

"By using fluorine implants, the transistor can operate at a higher frequency which means it will be twice as fast as it was before," said Professor Peter Ashburn, who lead the research team. "This means that the electronics industry will be able to achieve better performance at little extra cost."

Bipolar transistors are used in the solid state circuitry found in mobile phones and wireless devices. The discovery means that a doubling of the power of these devices has potentially moved form the distant horizon to the near future.

For raw horsepower, the Southampton transistors can't compete with a chip announced by IBM in June, which reached 500GHz using heavyweight cooling technology. However, that was based on silicon-germanium (SiGe), a different type of transistor from Southampton's bipolar design.

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