During the last years, Radio Frequency (RF) Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) have experienced tremendous progress in terms of technology development and circuit applications. Outstanding properties have been demonstrated when using RF-MEMS in single components such as switches and variable capacitors. Such components are potentially well suited for integration with circuits such as phase shifters, matching networks, filters etc. Thus, RF-MEMS are excellent candidates for integration into reconfigurable RF-systems. Today, it is accepted that significantly enhanced performance of next generation RF-communication and sensor systems could be possible using RF-MEMS. Novel type of RF-MEMS technology is expected to be an essential part of cognitive (i.e. self-adjusting) RF-systems, wireless sensors and telecommunication systems in the 1-100 GHz range. The main advantages of RF-MEMS switches (over their solid-state based counterparts) are a lower insertion loss, higher linearity and low power consumption. However, despite these highly attractive advantages, there still remain unsolved problem areas that currently prevent a successful integration of RF-MEMS (i.e. at low cost and with high reliability) into practical RF-systems and commercial products.
MEMS-4-MMIC core idea is the integration of RF-MEMS switches onto MMIC creating highly integrated multifunctional building blocks for high-value applications. This will be an enabling technology for defining a future manufacturing base within Europe for commercialisation of such RF-MEMS MMIC components for small scale as well as large scale production. These future products will be accessible for all types of customers.
MEMS-4-MMIC aims at the physical merging of two different technologies: innovative RF-MEMS switch technology on one side and proven MMIC technology on the other side. It will serve the needs of Europe to secure future access to RF-MEMS technologies in order to serve key European strategic industries such as aerospace, space, defence, the telecommunication infrastructures and the automotive sector. This should become even more evident when considering the limited access to US RF-MEMS technology for companies in Europe due to ITAR restrictions. Europe needs its own reliable source of RF-MEMS MMIC technology to support the new emerging wireless technology markets of tomorrow.
The MEMS-4-MMIC approach is the starting point for achieving a very short time-to-market of RF-MEMS MMIC products for the wireless sector, thus a short-time-to-cash for the European industries, and also the high degree of miniaturisation achieved by RF-MEMS MMIC components will result into a higher product quality and reliability, increased integration and functionality, lower costs, reduced power consumption, thus higher performance.
MEMS-4-MMIC considers the whole value chain of RF-MEMS MMIC components including the materials and suitable foundry processes, the RF-design, packaging of RF-MEMS MMIC, and the testing & reliability which plays a very important role in the whole commercial manufacturing process. For this purpose one of Europe's leading GaAs MMIC foundries, OMMIC, is part of the consortium.
The first RF-MEMS MMIC components are based on the requirements dictated by next-generation wireless smart applications, automotive radar, satellite terminals, 60 GHz WLAN and cognitive radio frontends. As a proof-of-concept an RF-MEMS MMIC based antenna frontend has been realised at the end of project showing the innovative character of the project and the possibilities for commercial exploitation.The MEMS-4-MMIC approach will allow achieving a very short time-to-market of RF-MEMS MMIC products for the European wireless sector, and also the high degree of miniaturisation achieved by RF-MEMS MMIC components will result into a higher performance through higher product quality and reliability, increased integration and functionality, lower costs, and reduced power consumption.
In order to be as successful as possible, the following key research topics have been addressed:
RF-MEMS MMIC design & process development
The technical specifications of the RF-MEMS MMIC components are based on the requirements of next generation reconfigurable systems.
Cost effective packaging
Not only the packaging at wafer- and die-level (0- and 1-level) has been considered but also packaging at component and (sub)module level has been established.
Pre-industrial validation (improved reliability)
One of the main challenges regarding RF-MEMS MMIC components is to be able to manufacture reliable components. In the semiconductor industry, standardised tests exists but not for RF-MEMS. Goal here was to arrive at an Approval for Market Introduction (AMI) that guarantees that the components processed within the development clean rooms are stable and reliable. This is the last milestone before the process is transferred to the production clean rooms.
The RF-MEMS MMIC components manufactured within the project, take a prominent place and vary from low complexity designs such as RF-MEMS switches and switch networks to complex reconfigurable matching networks, phase shifter, tunable band pass LNA or a combination of the previous listed components (so-called core chips).
The RF-MEMS MMIC components have been used to realise a breadboard of an RF-frontend for a proof-of-concept.
Within this project, the RF-MEMS MMIC designs have targeted ohmic switches at frequencies up to 50 GHz (using OMMIC's GaAs processes).
This project is funded and supported by EU under the Grant Agreement Number 224101:
ICT Challenge 3: Components, Systems and Engineering, Micro/Nanosystems, FP7-ICT-2007-2 (STREP)
Project life time: 01.05.2008 - 01.12.2012