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Consortium claims SiGe frequency record

February 25, 2011 // R. Colin Johnson

Consortium claims SiGe frequency record

The European Union's DotFive project has produced a silicon germanium chip set that it claims has the world's highest frequency of operation in the history silicon germanium (SiGe) history. The 820 GHz (0.82 terahertz) transmitter and receiver chip pair enable x-ray-like vision—to see inside containers—but at harmless millimeter wavelengths.

Today's terahertz imaging, radar and communications applications require expensive exotic devices, but the EU's DotFive project aims to lower the cost of terahertz devices by casting them in high-frequency SiGe. The three-year-old project is focused on producing millimeter wavelength silicon-germanium hetero-junction bipolar transistors (BiCMOS), which will be produced by commercially by STMicroelectronics NV and Infineon Technologies AG.

At the International Solid-State Circuits Conference, IHP GmbH and the University of Wuppertal presented the latest results of the DotFive project. The team described its two chip set—transmitter and receiver—which includes all the frequency multipliers, harmonic mixers, power amplifiers, on-chip antennas, and other circuits needed to create 820 GHz frequencies from a 18GHz reference. The researchers demonstrated the chips in a THz imaging application that could see inside a USB memory stick.

Visual images (top) and x-ray-like terahertz images (below) of objects screened at 0.82 THz with an integrated SiGe solution. Source: DotFive.

The DotFive project is led by STMicro (Geneva), Infineon (Munich, Germany), XMOD Technologies (Talence, France), GWT-TUD GmbH (Dresden, Germany) along with research institutes IMEC (Leuven, Belgium) and IHP (Germany) and academic partners at the Johannes Kepler University of Linz (Austria), the Bordeaux National School of Electronics, IT and Radiocommunications, the Paris-Sud University (France), the Technical University of Dresden, the Bundeswehr University in Munich, the University of Siegen (Germany) and the University of Naples (Italy).

Chip micrographs of a fully-integrated SiGe chip-set for THz imaging applications, to be presented at the 2011 ISSCC. Source: DotFive.

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