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IBM doubles speed of silicon germanium chips

New generation of processors can help cell phone operators handle higher bandwidth speeds.

IBM will announce on Friday the availability of its fourth generation of chips based on silicon germanium technology.

The new semiconductors, named 8HP and 8WL, are twice as fast as the previous generation of chips. The previous generation chip ran at 100 GHz, while this new generation of chips will run at a maximum speed of 200 GHz.

Silicon germanium, or SiGe, technology can boost performance and reduce the power consumption of chips that go into cellular phones and other wireless devices. Though SiGe chips lead to high performance, the technology is more expensive than plain old silicon, a factor that has limited its popularity.

"Silicon germanium technology is directly influencing an increasing number of next-generation consumer devices and applications," Bernie Meyerson, chief technologist for the Systems & Technology group at IBM, said in a statement. "The fourth generation of SiGe will continue to enable wireless connectivity on an unprecedented global scale in the coming years."

The new chips will enable longer battery life and increased functionality in cellular handsets, which should help cell phone makers build affordable phones with embedded Wi-Fi and global positioning system (GPS) technology, IBM said.

The new chips can also be used in short-range radar used in cars to help improve safety. Radars using the SiGe chips could be positioned on bumpers to warn drivers when they're about to hit something, or they could be used to help drivers see what obstacles are in their blindspot.

IBM was the first foundry in the world to offer SiGe technology. Since 1995, it has shipped hundreds of millions of SiGe devices. Companies such as Motorola, Airgo Networks and Tektronix have used IBM's SiGe technology in their products.