Electrical engineers at Georgia Institute of Technology have determined a transistor designed and built at IHP-Innovations for High Performance Microelectronics in Germany is the fastest silicon-based transistor chip. The silicon-germanium device was clocked at 798 GHz, 200 GHz faster than the previous record holder. There is one caveat, however: The device’s top speed was measured at cryogenic temperatures (–428°F). But researchers are confident a room-temperature record is not far off for an advanced version of this chip. In the meantime, the transistor should be useful for space applications where temperatures can be extremely low. Researchers are also sure a silicon-germanium transistor will soon break the terahertz barrier.

The device is a heterojunction bipolar transistor made from a nanoscale SiGe alloy embedded in a silicon transistor. Once on the market, it could replace high-speed devices that use expensive indium phosphate, gallium-arsenide, and gallium-nitride materials in applications for signal processing, imaging, sensing and radar, and high-data wireless and wired communications.