February, 2010:

ÅAC Microtec and Thales in cooperation to develop the microswitches of the future

ÅAC Microtec will, together with the multinational aerospace and defense group Thales, Uppsala University and a number of other European companies and research centers, conduct a project aimed at developing RF MEMS-based microswitches with highly enhanced properties.

MiniMEMS is a project funded by the European EURIPIDES program. The purpose of the project is to develop a new type of RF-MEMS-switched capacitator for use in RF tuning applications.

RF-MEMS (radio frequency microelectromechanical systems) have long shown promising performance with low loss, high linearity, and very low dc power consumption. However, problems concerning dielectric charging and temperature sensitivity have delayed their use in commercial applications. Another drawback with existing systems is the relatively long switching time compared to solid state technology, just above 1µs.

The MiniMEMS project will develop a new type of RF-MEMS switched capacitator which greatly mitigates the effects of dielectric charging and temperature effects and allows switching times in an order of magnitude below the state of the art. ÅAC Microtec’s expertise in miniaturization and packaging enables the packaging of microswitches on wafer level, which is key to efficient heat handling.

The project will explore two routes, together ensuring a successful delivery, while still allowing for innovative height. First, based on existing know-how, a secure and low-risk fabrication process will be developed using silicone and gallium nitride technologies. Secondly, also a CMOS compatible process will be developed. This is a more risky and challenging route, but if it succeeds the economic potential is huge, as it will allow massive civilian markets to be addressed.

The functionality will be demonstrated in two applications: tunable filters for adaptive receivers in air traffic management and 3-bit phase shifters for reflect array antenna in weather radar and wake vortex detection radar.

“It’s a great honor and a recognition of ÅAC Microtec’s expertise to be selected as a partner in this consortium led by the global technology leader in the aerospace market, Thales. Together we hope to create a new generation of RF-MEMS switches with huge economic potential,” says Fredrik Bruhn, Vice President and co-founder of ÅAC Microtec.

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