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TINIER PHONES STUDDED WITH CHIPS OF SAPPHIRE

WRISTWATCH COMMUNICATORS could finally become a reality, thanks to new technology from startup Peregrine Semiconductor Corp. The San Diego-based company has perfected a process to build ultrathin silicon chips on a base of pure sapphire.

Unlike semiconductor bases, which allow some electricity to pass through (hence the name--they semi-conduct), the sapphire layer is nonconductive. That means that radio frequency and logic circuits that previously had to be built in separate chips because they interfered with each other can now be crammed side-by-side on a single chip. Peregrine has licensed the technology to a Japanese chipmaker, and the company predicts that by next year, such chips could lead to cheaper satellites and mobile phones. By 2001, the technology should enable the making of tiny portable communicators, such as Dick Tracy-style wristwatch phones. Watch out, Pruneface!

EDITED BY CATHERINE ARNST
Andy Reinhardt


Updated June 23, 1997 by bwwebmaster
Copyright 1997, Bloomberg L.P.
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