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Home > Press > First Capacitive Transducer with 13nm Gap

Abstract:
Fabrication of sub-30nm gap for capacitive transducers seemed impossible, until recently. Researchers at UC Berkeley successfully demonstrated a 13nm-gap capacitive resonator, which will improve sensor and resonator performance by orders of magnitude.

First Capacitive Transducer with 13nm Gap

Berkeley, CA | Posted on July 27th, 2017

Capacitive-gap transduced resonators are well known to provide high on-chip quality factors (Q), with values reaching 150,000 at VHF and 40,000 at 3GHz. Q’s this high enable 0.1% bandwidth channel-select filters with low insertion loss and high rejection for ultra-low power transceivers. At HF (from 3-30MHz), capacitive-gap transduced resonators also post strong electromechanical coupling, as gauged by (Cx/Co), up to 30%, which outperforms all other technologies. However, application of these transducers as the main filters of the smartphone (with market value more than $10b) requires strong electromechanical coupling at gigahertz frequencies. To achieve such a high coupling, transducers need to have gap spacing as small as 20 nanometers or less.
Researchers at University of California Berkeley demonstrated electrode-to-resonator gaps as small as 13.2nm achieved on a 59.5-MHz capacitive-gap transduced disk resonator which enabled a measured electromechanical coupling strength Cx/Co greater than 1.62% at a bias voltage of only 5.5V, which exceeds that of any competing technology, macro or micro, capacitive or piezoelectric, at similar VHF frequencies, all while retaining an unloaded quality factor Q of 29,640. Several key discoveries contribute to this successful demonstration, which include a novel polysilicon etch recipe that enables considerably smoother etch sidewalls than previously achievable, allowing more uniform sidewall sacrificial layer deposition and preventing structure pull-in by removing disparities and their associated strong electric fields. The implementation of small gap has improved the electromechanical coupling by more than 10x compared to previous resonators and its figure-of-merit measured as kt
2Q=576.2 holds the world’s record. This combination of high Cx/Co and Q, which has long been a primary driver for RF MEMS research, stands to not only cut VHF low noise oscillator power consumption to sub-µW levels, but now creates opportunities to apply MEMS resonator technology to the highly profitable and lucrative RF filter market for smartphones.

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Jalal Naghsh Nilchi
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