Two chips in one: Researchers combine microprocessor materials

September 17, 2009 | Source:

Hybrid silicon-gallium nitride chip (Patrick Gillooly)

An MIT team has succeeded in combining two semiconductor materials (silicon and gallium nitride) that have different and potentially complementary characteristics into a single hybrid microchip — an advance that could lead to overcoming fundamental barriers of size and speed facing today’s silicon chips.

Conventional silicon provides the vast majority of the transistors, offering integration and scalability, while gallium nitride, a material with better performance, is used for the transistors that need to work faster.

Besides faster microprocessors, the technology could enable a new class of high-performance mixed-signal and digitally controlled RF circuits for use in a wide range of applications, hybrid chips that combine lasers and electronic components on a single chip, more efficient cell phone manufacturing, and energy-harvesting devices that can harness the pressure and vibrations from the environment to produce enough power to run the silicon components.