IBM Announces Strained Silicon

IBM announced that it has discovered a way to alter silicon; the company expects the breakthrough to increase chip speeds by up to 35 percent.

Called "Strained Silicon," the technology stretches the material, speeding the flow of electrons through transistors to increase performance and decrease power consumption in semiconductors. IBM estimates that strained silicon technology could find its way into products by 2003.

The new technology takes advantage of the natural tendency for atoms inside compounds to align with one another. When silicon is deposited on top of a substrate with atoms spaced farther apart, the atoms in silicon stretch to line up with the atoms beneath, stretching - or "straining" - the silicon.

In the strained silicon, electrons experience less resistance and flow up to 70 percent faster, which can lead to chips that are up to 35 percent faster - without having to shrink the size of transistors.