RF MEMS Devices Posed to Revolutionise Communications

Feb 09, 2006, 00:00 ET from Frost & Sullivan

    LONDON, February 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Microelectromechanical system (MEMS)
 technology is attracting tremendous interest across the world and research
 efforts are constantly growing. This technology has made exceptional advances
 in recent years and is now poised to transform radio frequency (RF). RF MEMS
 devices have a huge number of potential applications including wireless
 communications, military, space and instrumentation.
     "The interest in MEMS technology for RF and wireless applications can be
 attributed to its flexibility, which can be exploited to overcome the
 limitations exhibited by integrated RF devices and enable circuits with new
 levels of performance not achievable otherwise," says Technical Insights
 (http://technicalinsights.frost.com) Research Analyst Rajesh Kannan. "Thus,
 the ultimate goal in applying RF MEMS is to propagate the device-level
 benefits all the way up to the system level."
     Components based on MEMS technology not only deliver superior RF
 performance and tunability, but do so over a much broader range of operating
 frequencies. For instance, an RF MEMS switch concurrently provides improved
 insertion loss, isolation and linearity.
     RF MEMS devices can potentially be used as microswitches to build
 impedance networks in front of power amplifiers and to decrease the number of
 components in multistandard mobile phones. They can also be used as MEMS
 inductors and tunable capacitors for integrated voltage-controlled
 oscillators (VCOs) in global positioning systems (GPSs).
     Since this technology enables superior passive devices, it is ideally
 suited for numerous wireless appliances operating in the home/ground, mobile,
 and space spheres such as handsets, base stations, and satellites. In fact,
 with RF MEMS' characteristic properties of low power consumption and
 reconfigurability, ubiquitous wireless connectivity may no longer be a
 distant possibility.
     Current research efforts are aimed at developing a single-chip RF circuit
 in response to wireless system manufacturers' need for lower weight, volume,
 cost and increased functionality. With companies looking to integrate MEMS
 devices directly on the RF chip, numerous discrete components could be
 replaced, thereby offering enhanced performance and reliability along with
 significant cost savings.
     "The industry is only now beginning to see the advantages of such
 integrated devices," says Kannan. "Over time, this integration can lead to
 the replacement of all passive RF chips with on-chip devices, offering
 considerable benefits such as smaller form factors for cell phones and added
 functionalities including Internet connectivity."
     As telecom systems grow increasingly sophisticated, researchers
 continuously attempt to improve RF MEMS devices in terms of size and
 performance. An interesting way of achieving this is to introduce new
 materials in their fabrication. However, such materials will not only have to
 possess advanced electrical and mechanical properties, their elaboration
 process must also be fully compatible with all other steps involved in
     The pulsed laser deposition (PLD) method has shown significant potential
 in depositing thin-films with different properties of various materials even
 at room temperature. Researchers at the University of Limoges in France are
 now exploring the electro-mechanical properties of aluminium oxide and
 tetrahedral amorphous carbon (ta-C) thin-films deposited at room temperature
 using PLD. Their research has yielded several examples illustrating the
 integration of such materials in RF MEMS device fabrication.
     Researchers believe that such devices have numerous promising
 applications. Aluminium oxide as dielectric in MEMS capacitive switches is
 one such application. They are also exploring the possibility of small-sized
 MEMS switches that could reduce switching time and ease the integration of
 this component above complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) circuitry.
     In other interesting developments, a research team at the University of
 Dortmund has developed a concept for a completely CMOS-compatible integrated
 surface RF MEMS switch using the electrostatic actuating principle.
 Typically, MEMS integration in the CMOS process takes place pre-CMOS,
 intermediate-CMOS or post-CMOS.
     This concept is based on the monolithic integration of a
 microelectromechanical switch by method of the intermediate-CMOS fabrication.
 Researchers say that only minor modifications of the CMOS process are
 required to integrate the MEMS switch in the process flow. Since all
 additional process steps are taken from the CMOS technology, the entire
 process remains CMOS-compatible.
     "Since almost exclusively CMOS-process steps are deployed and no
 additional equipment is needed for the fabrication, this makes it easy to
 transfer the process to every other CMOS-technology-line," says Kannan.
 "Researchers hope that further integration with already published integrated
 optical and mechanical processes will allow the realisation of very complex
     Advances in RF MEMS Technology is part of the Industrial Automation
 vertical subscription service, and provides a detailed analysis of emerging
 RF MEMS technologies and their major potential applications. It discusses
 important technology developments and trends worldwide in the RF MEMS domain,
 and provides a breakdown of critical ongoing research by region. Executive
 summaries and analyst interviews are available to the press.
     If you are interested in an analysis providing manufacturers, end users
 and other industry participants with an overview, summary, challenges and
 latest coverage of Advances in RF MEMS Technology, send an e-mail to
 Magdalena Oberland, Corporate Communications, at magdalena.oberland@frost.com
 containing the following information: your full name, company name, title,
 contact telephone number, contact fax number, e-mail address and source of
 information. Upon receipt of the above information, an overview will be
 e-mailed to you.
     Technical Insights is an international technology analysis business that
 produces a variety of technical news alerts, newsletters and research
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     Magdalena Oberland
     Corporate Communications - Europe
     P: +44-(0)20-7915-7876
     F: +44-(0)20-7730-3343
     E: magdalena.oberland@frost.com
     Tori Foster
     Corporate Communications - North America
     P: +1-210-477-8448
     F: +1-210-348-1003
     E: tori.foster@frost.com
     Pramila Gurtoo Corporate
     Communications - Asia Pacific
     DID: +603-6204-5811
     Gen: +603-6204-5800
     Fax: +603-6201-7402
     E: pgurtoo@frost.com
     List of Keywords in this Release: RF MEMS, wireless communications,
 microelectromechanical system, MEMS, radio frequency, insertion loss,
 isolation, linearity, MEMS inductors, tunable capacitors, integrated
 voltage-controlled oscillators, VCOs, global positioning system, GPS,
 single-chip RF circuit, on-chip devices, pulsed laser deposition, PLD,
 aluminium oxide and tetrahedral amorphous carbon (ta-C) thin-films,
 microfabrication, MEMS capacitive switches, complementary metal-oxide
 semiconductor, CMOS, electrostatic actuating principle
     List of Key Industry Participants:
     Acreo AB, Applied MEMS, Inc., Boston MicroSystems, Capres, Inc., Colibrys
 SA, Discera, Inc., EENa Corp., Epcos AG, GP NanoTechnology Group Ltd., IceMos
 Technology Ltd., IBM Research GmbH, LG Electronics, Inc., MEMS Solution,
 Inc., MEMSCAP, Inc., Memscap, S.A., Micralyne, Inc., Microfabrica, Inc.,
 Microlab, Inc., Motorola, Inc., Nanotech Partners Ltd., Omron Electronic
 Components Europe BV, Silicon Microstructures, Inc., TeraVicta Technologies,
 Inc., Toyota Central R&D Laboratories, Inc., Toyota Central Research &
 Development Labs, TRONIC'S Microsystems, WiSpry, Inc., XCOM Wireless, Inc.
     Universities & Company Research
     Berkeley Sensor and Actuator Center, IceMos Technology Ltd., Institute of
 Microelectronics, Motorola, National Cheng Kung University, National
 Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Sandia National
 Laboratories, Shanghai JiaoTong University, SPCTS UMR CNRS, The University of
 Michigan at Ann Arbor, University of Arkansas, University of Colorado at
 Boulder, University of Dortmund, University of Glasgow, University of
 Maryland, VTT Information Technology, Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya,
 Barcelona, Spain

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