Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Professor Milton Feng and Professor Nick Holonyakof the University of Illinois campus in Urbana have recently built a different type of transistor althogther that outputs laser light.
"Room-temperature transistor lasers could facilitate faster signal
processing, large capacity seamless communications, and higher performance
electrical and optical integrated circuits," said Feng, the Holonyak
Chair Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Illinois.
Feng has received worldwide recognition for his research on heterojunction
bipolar transistors. He has produced the world's fastest bipolar
transistor, a device that operates at a frequency of more than 700 gigahertz."

During the past year (2006), high-speed transistor records have fallen like dominoes on the Illinois campus. In January, Feng's group announced a transistor with a 150-nanometer collector and a top frequency of 382 gigahertz. In May, the group reported a 452-gigahertz device with a 25-nanometer base and a 100-nanometer collector. Further scaling reduced the collector size to 75 nanometers, resulting in a 509-gigahertz device, announced last month. So what?

The significance of this, of course, is that transistors are one of the fundemental building blocks of computers. They are, afterall, ultimately where the bits of 0 and 1 are stored in a computer. The faster they get the faster computers will be able to store and retrieve information... at least that's the theory. To imagine how this continued rapid advancement in the speed of transitors might impact technology is difficult. Suffice to say it is just another example of the unpredictability of all this.

I wonder what it means to be able to build Integrated Circuits that use photons to transmit information around and not electrons?

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