Micro-mechanical switches for both power and 5G applications

March 01, 2017 // By Jean-Pierre Joosting
A Digital-Micro-Switch (DMS) technology platform from Menlo Micro is now qualified for production, delivering a next-generation wafer-level process that enables the fabrication of micro-mechanical switches for both power and RF applications.

With the DMS process, Menlo has demonstrated an industry leading RonCoff performance below 50 fs, and will sample devices at 10 fs, a 10x improvement compared to traditional switches, in the next 12-18 months. RonCoff is the key figure-of-merit used by the semiconductor industry to quantify the quality or performance of an RF switch. With the proliferation of new frequency bands, including much higher frequencies, the performance of the RF switch will become an increasingly important factor in enabling higher data-rates, longer battery life, and much more flexible architectures for 5G applications.

Using proprietary materials, designs, and wafer-level processing techniques licensed exclusively from General Electric, the DMS technology from Menlo has proven reliability and can not only handle kW levels of power, but can be scaled down in size and cost to making it cost-competitive with silicon-on-insulator (SOI). The switches are made from proprietary metal alloys, plated onto glass wafers with through glass vias (TGV) from supplier and investor Corning Incorporated, resulting in extremely high reliability and improved RF performance.

“We see the DMS platform, our re-invention of the switch, as a true revolution in the industry,” said Menlo SVP Product Development, Chris Giovanniello. “The fully-isolating substrate, combined with the elimination of the transistor, allows us to achieve performance previously unattainable with purely solid-state technologies such as SOI. We’re not talking about small, incremental improvements to RonCoff, but more than an order of magnitude of improvement in the next 18 months over what is in production today.”

In addition to the key figure-of-merit RonCoff, Menlo has demonstrated linearity above +90 dBm, which is 15-20 dB better than what is traditionally considered best-in-class performance. Switches that the company now has in development will have insertion loss < 0.3 dB at 12 GHz and cover bandwidths from DC-18 GHz, with the ability to extend up to even higher frequencies, including mmWave.