Strained silicon is a layer of siliconin which the siliconatomsare stretched beyond their normal interatomic distance. This can be accomplished by putting the layer of siliconover asubstrateof silicon germanium(SiGe
). As the atoms in the silicon layer align withthe atoms of the underlying silicon germanium layer (which are arranged a little farther apart, with respect to those of a bulk silicon crystal), the links between the silicon atoms become stretched - thereby leading to strained silicon. Moving these silicon atoms farther apart reduces the atomic forces that interfere with the movement of electrons through thetransistors and thus better mobility, resulting in better chip performance and lower energyconsumption. Theseelectronscan move 70% faster allowing strained silicontransistorsto switch 35% faster.The image on the leftshows electrons flowing through a current silicon chip.On the right is an imageof electrons flowing through "strained silicon". The electronsflow up to 70 percent faster through strained silicon because there is less resistance,resulting in chip speed increases of up to 35 percent. IBM scientists are able to strain, or stretch the silicon by taking advantage of the natural tendency of atoms inside of differentcrystals to align with one another. When silicon is deposited on top of another materialwhich has atoms spaced farther apart -- in this case, silicon germanium -- the atoms insilicon stretch to line up with the atoms beneath.