SBIR Phase I: RF MEMS Relay for ATE Applications

Award Information
Agency: National Science Foundation
Branch: N/A
Contract: 1143347
Agency Tracking Number: 1143347
Amount: $149,924.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2012
Solicitation Year: 2012
Solicitation Topic Code: EI
Solicitation Number: N/A
Small Business Information
4775 Technology Circle, Suite 3, Grand Forks, ND, 58203-5635
DUNS: 618971964
HUBZone Owned: Y
Woman Owned: Y
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: Y
Principal Investigator
 Chopin Hua
 (701) 772-1513
Business Contact
 Chopin Hua
Phone: (701) 772-1513
Research Institution
This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project will develop RF MEMS (Radio Frequency Microelectromechanical Systems) relays for automated test equipment (ATE), wireless frontends, and other commercial applications. As the advancement of microchip technology continues, the testing and qualification of microchips become more challenging and costly. RF MEMS may enable lower cost, higher throughput and more repeatable test and qualification in mainstream semiconductor manufacturing. In particular, RF MEMS relays may offer benefits for probing of next generation 3D chips with thru-wafer vias that require sensitive and yet very rapid test capabilities. The proposed project addresses the manufacturability and packaging challenges for production. In comparison to boutique manufacturing processes utilized by many RF MEMS technologies, the proposed project leverages the proven and robust silicon MEMS production processes and infrastructure. Furthermore, packaging is performed using wafer-level hermetic packaging that addresses the high cost of hermetic sealing for RF MEMS devices. ATE applications represent the initial application of the proposed RF MEMS relay technology. Wireless applications, as well as other applications, can be enabled by lower prices as production volumes are ramped up. Anticipated results include a RF MEMS relay technology, with low-cost integrated packaging, ready and qualified for production. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project includes ATE, wireless, and enabling RF capabilities for the scientific community. RF MEMS may offer ATE key advantages in testing next generation microchips, including improved repeatability and reliability compared to conventional mechanical relays. RF MEMS may be critical for testing next generation 3D microchips with thru-wafer-vias that require sensitive and yet high-throughput testing. For wireless, RF MEMS address reconfiguration and tuning for improved power efficiency and link robustness of radios. For example, RF MEMS may be utilized for (1) changing a reconfigurable antenna from a high bandwidth line-of-sight configuration to a lower bandwidth diversity configuration, or (2) compensating a wireless handset?s power amplifier for its changing operating environment to maintain maximum efficiency (including impedance and distance from the base station). For scientific applications, RF MEMS relays offer low insertion loss and superior linearity from DC to>100 GHz. In comparison to semiconductor transistors, RF MEMS have an approximate 10x reduction in insertion loss. Thus, a variety of radio architectures may benefit, as well as radiometers for monitoring weather and climate. Anticipated results include a RF MEMS technology, with low cost integrated packaging, ready and qualified for production.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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