IBM

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announced Tuesday that it has developed a new communications chip capable of record-breaking speeds. The only catch: The chip's circuits were cryogenically frozen to 451 degrees below zero.

Working with researchers at the Georgia Tech, IBM clocked the chip at 500 GHz, or 500 billion cycles per second. That's about 250 times faster than chips in today's cell phones, which typically operate at approximately 2 GHz, said IBM.

"For the first time, Georgia Tech and IBM have demonstrated that speeds of a half a trillion cycles per second can be achieved in a commercial silicon-based technology, using large wafers and silicon-compatible low-cost manufacturing techniques," said John Cressler, Byers Professor at the Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The chip was developed as part of a project between IBM and the university to explore the ultimate speed limits of silicon-germanium devices, a high-performance and low-power technology used in cell-phone chips, which operate faster at very cold temperatures.

According to IBM, the near-absolute-zero temperature used in the chip experiment is only found naturally in outer space but can be artificially achieved by using ultra-cold materials such as liquid helium.

At room temperature, the chip prototype operated at 350 GHz, and computer simulations indicated that it could ultimately support frequencies approaching 1,000 GHz at room temperature.

Until now reaching such extreme speeds meant using expensive semiconductor materials, according to IBM. Attaining such extreme speeds with silicon-germanium using standard manufacturing techniques could lead to high-volume applications such as commercial communications systems, defense electronics and remote sensing.

Shares of IBM were recently up 0.7%, or 51 cents, to $78.18 in midday trading Tuesday.