IBM Chip to Give Wireless Devices a Boost

By putting transistors for both communication and computing on a single chip, IBM says it will be able to greatly improve performance and reduce power consumption of wireless devices.

IBM is touting a new chip design it says will improve the performance of wireless devices four times and reduce power consumption by up to 80 percent.

Key to the technology is IBMs ability to put transistors for both communication and computing onto a single chip, according to the Armonk, N.Y., company. Currently they reside on separate chips—the communication on SiGe (silicon germanium) bipolar chips and CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) chips for computing.

According to an announcement by Big Blue Tuesday at the 2003 Bipolar/BiCMOS Circuits and Technology Meeting in Toulouse, France, the breakthrough came when researchers discovered a way to house SiGe bipolar chips on a silicon on insulator (SOI) wafer. Before, only the CMOS chips could be built on the SOI wafer. Now both can be built on the same wafer.

The chips could be implemented within five years, according to an IBM spokeswoman. The result could include anti-collision car radars that could alert drivers when their cars get too close to others, video streaming on cell phones, small GPS devices and the ability to go a longer time between cell phone recharges, she said.

The project is being conducted by IBM Semiconductor Research and Development Center, IBM Research and IBM Microelectronics Division.