Breaking a computer speed record

IBM and Georgia Tech have coaxed a chip to run at 500GHz, a record for a silicon-based device, by dropping the temperature to minus 451 degrees Fahrenheit.

The experiment is part of a project to explore the ultimate speed limits of silicon-germanium (SiGe) chips. SiGe chips are similar to standard silicon chips, but they also contain germanium for better performance and lower power consumption.

At room temperature, the IBM-Georgia Tech chip operates at 350GHz, or 350 billion cycles per second. That's far faster than standard PC processors today, which range from 3.8GHz to 1.8GHz. But SiGe chips can gain additional performance in colder temperatures.

To that end, IBM and Georgia Tech scientists turned down the temperature and cryogenically froze the chip at minus 451 F. It's about as cold as things get. An extremely cold temperature like that is found naturally only in outer space, but can be artificially achieved on Earth using ultracold materials such as liquid helium. Absolute zero comes at minus 459 F.

I can see it now. "New from Alienware, liquid helium cooled overclocked systems." Something to stroke the e-peen of the warez guys, I guess.

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