Mechanical resonance is widely applied in high-precision oscillators for a multitude of time-keeping and frequency reference applications. In all such cases, the high-precision resonating element consists of an off-chip passive component, such as a quartz crystal. Major drawback of these off-chip resonator technologies is that they are bulky and must interface with transistor chips at the boards, posing a bottleneck against the ultimate miniaturization of e.g. wireless devices. The extraordinary small size and high level of integration that can be achieved with silicon MEMS resonators appear to open exceptional possibilities for creating miniature-scale precision oscillators to be used in e.g. mobile communication and navigation devices. The aim of the NanoTIMER project is to develop an oscillator with high-accuracy incorporating a silicon MEMS resonator generating frequencies in the 10 to 1500 MHz range.
Within the NanoTIMER project, MEMS based oscillators will be realized according to concrete specifications derived from existing applications. The MEMS oscillator will be encapsulated using a wafer-level vacuum package technology that is compatible to the oscillator manufacturing flow. An important feature of the proposed resonator manufacturing process is the realization of nanometre size (100 nm) transduction gaps, which is of prime importance for the realization of MEMS resonators functioning in the GHz range. Reliability and drift of assembled oscillators and its constituent components (resonator and package) will be assessed.
The NanoTIMER initiative is a first step towards the realization of 'vibrating' nano-electro- mechanical processors that, combined with traditional CMOS, could open new alternatives for signal processing in VLSI.
Funding SchemeSTREP - Specific Targeted Research Project
CB2 1PZ Cambridge