Vibrating RF MEMS Technology: Fuel for an Integrated Micromechanical Circuit Revolution?
Clark T.-C. Nguyen,
University of Michigan
Recent advances in vibrating RF MEMS technology that yield on-chip resonators with Q’s over 10,000 at GHz frequencies and excellent thermal and aging stability, have now positioned vibrating micromechanical devices as strong candidates for inclusion into a number of future wireless communication sub-systems, from cellular handsets, to PDA’s, to low-power networked sensors, to ultra-sensitive radar and jam-resistant communicators designed for hostile environments. But the benefits of vibrating RF MEMS technology go far beyond mere component replacement. In fact, the extent of the performance and economic benefits afforded by vibrating RF MEMS devices grows exponentially as researchers begin to perceive them more as building blocks than as stand-alone devices. In particular, when integrated into micromechanical circuits, in which vibrating mechanical links are connected into larger, more general networks, previously unachievable signal processing functions become possible, such as reconfigurable RF channel-selecting filter banks, ultra-stable reconfigurable oscillators, frequency domain computers, and frequency translators. When further integrated together with other micro scale devices (e.g., transistors, micro ovens, micro coolers, atomic cells), system-level benefits for portable applications abound, particularly those for which architectural changes allow a designer to trade high Q for lower power consumption and greater robustness, with potentially revolutionary impact. This presentation describes the MEMS technologies and attributes most suitable to enabling such an integrated micromechanical circuit technology.
Prof. Clark T.-C. Nguyen received the BS, MS, and PhD degrees from the University of California at Berkeley in 1989, 1991, and 1994, respectively, all in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences. In 1995, he joined the faculty of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, to which he has very recently returned after a 3.5 year leave in Washington, DC, where he served as the MEMS Program Manager in the Microsystems Technology Office (MTO) of DARPA. His technical interests at Michigan focus upon micro electromechanical systems (MEMS) and include integrated vibrating micromechanical signal processors and sensors, merged circuit/micromechanical technologies, RF communication architectures, and integrated circuit design and technology. Prof. Nguyen and his students at Michigan have garnered numerous Best Paper Awards at prestigious conferences, including the 1998 and 2003 IEEE Int. Electron Devices Meetings, the 2004 IEEE Ultrasonics Symposium, the 2004 DARPA Tech Conference, the 2004 IEEE Custom Integrated Circuits Conference, the 2005 IEEE Int. Solid-State Circuits Conference, and 2005 IEEE Frequency Control Symposium. In 2001, Prof. Nguyen founded Discera, Inc., a company aimed at commercializing communication products based upon MEMS technology, with an initial focus on the very vibrating micromechanical resonators pioneered by his research in past years. He served as Vice President and Acting Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Discera from 2001 to mid-2002.