The University of Florida (UF) and Texas Instruments (TI) (NYSE: TXN) have developed the world’s highest frequency circuit made with a common type of semiconductor transistor, a step that could slash the price of detectors useful in medicine, environmental monitoring and military applications.
Measured in a UF laboratory using a circuit equipped with a tiny on-chip antenna the size of a pen tip, 410 GHz eclipses the previous record for CMOS circuits set in February 2006 by 200 GHz. More important, it is around 60 GHz higher than the previous record set using alternative but more expensive indium phosphide technology. TI’s advanced manufacturing technology, known as the 45-nanometer (nm) CMOS process, serves as the foundation for the new circuit.
Ultra-high frequency circuits have been created in the past, but only with exotic materials that are costly to manufacture. CMOS, by contrast, is the standard process used to make the majority of the chips in the integrated circuit industry, therefore opening the door for widespread manufacture and distribution of the high-frequency chips.
Applications include, always-on environmental monitoring equipment acutely sensitive to pollution, noxious gases, or bioterrorism agents. In imaging, high-frequency chips make possible techniques that can penetrate clothing to “see” hidden weapons or plastic explosives. The circuit could also be used in chips for medical equipment that could facilitate early detection of skin and other cancers, and in industrial systems that monitor the coatings on pills to ensure they have the proper thickness and uniformity.
The circuit was demonstrated on TI’s low power 45-nm process technology. The process includes a number of techniques to deliver cost-effective multi-million transistor, system-on-chip processors with the performance and lower power consumption required for processing advanced applications. While designed to extend battery life and energy efficiency in portable products, the technology also offers the performance to handle advanced multimedia functionality in a tightly integrated design.