You are on page 1of 3


1, JANUARY 2014 41
A Bi-Phase MEMS Resonator Modulator
Roger Kaul, Life Senior Member, IEEE, Jeffrey S. Pulskamp, Ronald G. Polcawich, Member, IEEE,
Sarah S. Bedair, Member, IEEE, and Robert M. Proie, Jr., Member, IEEE
AbstractThe high-electric eld piezoelectric properties of
a PZT-transduced, two-port, acoustic resonator are utilized to
create a binary phase shift modulator. The modulator operates at
frequencies below 100 MHz in a length extensional mode. Typical
peak modulation voltage levels are 7 V. The design is congured
as a subsystem with separate RF and data ports for use in low
data rate, battery-powered networks.
Index TermsAcoustic resonator, binary phase modulator,
micro-electromechanical system (MEMS), piezoelectric effect.
HIS letter summarizes the design, operation and perfor-
mance of a binary phase shift keying (BPSK) modulator
utilizing the high electric eld piezoelectric properties of a
piezoelectric lead zirconate titanate (PZT) transduced acoustic
resonator. The present devices operate at frequencies below
100 MHz and are narrowband thus operating only at low
modulation frequencies (tens of kilohertz). This design is not
optimized for insertion loss. A modulator with these character-
istics would nd application in low data-rate, battery-powered
transmitters utilizing a binary phase modulation in an unat-
tended ground sensor network.
BPSKmodulators utilizing micro-electromechanical systems
(MEMS) devices have been reported using a distributed MEMS
transmission line [1] and a 180 ring hybrid [2]. M.A. Llamas,
et al., [3] describe a 180 phase shift suitable for differential
radiometer applications with a switching time of 100 and a
release time of 15 . Table 1 in [3] lists other phase switches
with approximately 180 shifts.
Although our research demonstrates the principles of a
BPSK piezoelectric resonator at 19 MHz, this concept can be
extended to higher frequency resonators [4]. MEMS-based
modulators have low power consumption compared to semi-
conductor-based modulators since they do not require a current
to forward bias a diode or transistor.
A microphotograph of a typical resonator is shown in Fig. 1.
The device utilizes a xed dc bias to pole the PZT output trans-
ducer and a switched dc bias to pole the input transducer. The
platinum bias resistor has a total resistance of 2200 .
Manuscript received February 27, 2013; revised May 10, 2013 and June 14,
2013; accepted August 07, 2013. Date of publication October 25, 2013; date of
current version January 06, 2014.
The authors are with the U. S. Army Research Laboratory, Adelphi, MD
20783 USA (e-mail:
Color versions of one or more of the gures in this letter are available online
Digital Object Identier 10.1109/LMWC.2013.2286618
Fig. 1. Top: Photo of the BPSK modulator with the 2200- bias resistor and
31 pF series capacitor. Bottom: Diagram of test setup.
The series PZT capacitor has a measured value of 31 pF when
biased at 7 V(the electric eld in the PZT is and
the capacitance per unit area is about 0.01 at 19 MHz
for this 1/2 thick PZT). This value of capacitance provides
a relatively low impedance (about 270 at 19 MHz) compared
to the input impedance of the transducer. The series capacitor
helps to isolate the transducer bias pulse being applied to the
bi-phase modulator (a total swing of 14 V) from coupling into
the 50 input transmission line. The capacitance was selected
to be a tradeoff between the values available in the manufac-
turing process, the allowable increase in the insertion loss for
the modulator, and the pulse amplitude on the input 50 cir-
cuit. The peak voltage is 22 mV for a 14 V peak-peak wave-
form with 1 rise- and fall-time at the modulators input RF
port. Since our switching rate was typically 1 kHz, the rise- and
fall-times can be as slow as 0.1 ms yielding a peak voltage pulse
of 0.22 mV at the modulators input RF port. This voltage pulse
will appear at the output of the preceding amplier stage and
may cause this amplier to saturate for a short period of time.
U.S. Government work not protected by U.S. copyright.
The two-port resonator utilizes an input piezoelectric trans-
ducer to convert the electrical excitation to a mechanical res-
onance in the Si resonator structure. The silicon resonator has
length, width, and thickness of 200 , 36 , and 10 ,
respectively. These dimensions determine the fundamental and
harmonic resonant frequencies for the length-extensional mode
of the resonator through the relation
where i is the mode number ( for the fundamental), L is the
length, is the composite modulus of elasticity (162 GPa), and
is the composite mass density (2755 ). The output
piezoelectric transducer then converts the mechanical energy of
the vibrating structure to a motional current at the mechanical
resonant frequency. These devices do not display an anti-res-
onance response in the lowest-order length-extensional mode
using this transducer conguration.
The details of the resonator fabrication and design are pre-
sented in an earlier publication [5]. We operate in the funda-
mental length-extensional mode as determined by comparison
to simulation [5].
The resonators phase shift results from a dependence of the
sign of the output current on the dc bias conditions on the piezo-
electric transducers. The motional current of two-port piezo-
electric resonators operating in the length-extensional mode is
proportional to the product of the piezoelectric coefcients
(the ratio of the strain to the electric eld) of each transducer
[6], [7]
where is the motional current fromthe output port and
and are the piezoelectric coefcients for the input and
output ports, respectively. For small signals, PZT (as well as
other piezoelectrics) exhibit piezoelectric coefcients that are
independent of electric eld. However, PZT displays additional
piezoelectric nonlinearity due to its ferroelectric properties [8]
at very high electric elds in excess of the materials coercive
eld [9]. Under high bias conditions the
coefcient is positive for positive electric elds and negative
for negative elds. Varying the dc bias polarity on the input port
changes the sign of . For a xed dc bias on the output port
(xed ), this results in the change of sign of as seen in
(2). Consequently, changing the polarity of the high electric eld
dc bias only on the input transducer will change the sign of the
resonators motional current and appear as a 180 phase shift.
The insertion loss and phase of the forward transmission
scattering parameter, , for the BPSK resonator is shown in
Fig. 2 for both output transducer polarities. The insertion loss
refers to the case where both transducers have the same
polarity. The insertion loss for the case with opposite trans-
ducer voltages is nearly identical. The reection coefcients,
Fig. 2. (a) Insertion loss for the BPSKmodulator with equal and opposite trans-
ducer voltages (solid) compared to the lumped element device model (dotted)
shown in Fig. 4. (b) Transfer phase for the BPSK modulator with equal and
opposite transducer voltages, plus the lumped element model transfer phase de-
rived from the circuit in Fig. 3.
and are both approximately 0.8 dB at 18.95 MHz
even though the output transducer is smaller than the input
transducer. For this device the insertion loss is about 27 dB
in a 50 system at the 18.95 MHz resonance frequency. The
two series capacitors contribute about 9 dB to the insertion
loss. The magnitude of at 18.95 MHz was calculated to be
about 17 dB for only the resonator. No attempt was made to
match the modulator to the analyzers
50 impedance.. This same bi-phase effect due to transducer
voltage polarities has been observed with resonators [10] de-
signed for near 50 input and output impedances yielding an
insertion loss less than 3 dB. The loaded Q measured in air of
this resonator at 18.95 MHz is approximately 410 based on the
3 dB bandwidth of 46 kHz.
The model for the resonator at series resonance was deter-
mined by de-embedding the resonator from the 31 pF capacitors
in series with the input and output transducers. The resulting
lumped element circuit is shown in Fig. 3. As expected the ca-
pacitance of the larger input capacitor is 68 pF and the output
capacitance is 12 pF for this resonator at its 18.95 MHz funda-
mental frequency. A comparison of the lumped element device
model with the measured data was shown in Fig. 2(a) and (b).
Fig. 3. Lumped element device model of the resonator at 18.95 MHz.
Fig. 4. Top trace (input voltage at 18.95 MHz) is 100 mV/div while the lower
traces (output voltages) are 5 mV/div. Trace Plus-Minus is the transducer output
voltage with opposite polarity 7 V on the input and output transducers. Trace
Plus-Plus is the output voltage with equal poling voltages on the transducers.
The horizontal axis is 100 ns/div.
The voltage-time waveforms for the BPSK modulator (res-
onator plus two series capacitors) are shown in Fig. 4. The os-
cilloscope was triggered on the 18.95 MHz input signal (top
trace). When the input transducers voltage is 7 V and the
output transducers voltage was 7 V, the output voltage phase
is shifted slightly from the input waveform due to the series ca-
pacitors (middle trace). The same phase shift versus frequency
is shown as the top trace in Fig. 2(b). With a 7 Vpoling voltage
on both the input and output transducers the output signals
phase (bottom trace) shifted 180 from the middle trace. Re-
versing the bias voltages on the input transducer while keeping
the output transducer voltage xed yields the same voltage-time
traces as predicted by the relation above.
A bi-phase modulator utilizing the properties of the PZT
transducers has been presented. A comparison of the two-port
resonator modulator and two commercial devices is presented
in Table I. The performance of the device is primarily deter-
mined by the Si resonators transducers and the associated bias
network for application of the modulating (poling) voltages.
The size of the device (1.1 ) and its relatively low oper-
ating voltage (7 V) make this low data-rate BPSK modulator
suitable for use in unattended ground systems.
[1] N. S. Barker and G. M. Rebeiz, Distributed MEMS transmission line
BPSK modulator, IEEE Microw. Guided Wave Lett., vol. 10, no. 5,
pp. 198200, May 2000.
[2] B. R. Jackson and C. E. Saavedra, 2.4 GHz direct-digital binary phase
shift keying modulator using MEMS switch, Electron. Lett., vol. 40,
no. 24, pp. 15391541, Nov. 25, 2004.
[3] M. A. Llamas, M. Ribo, L. Pradell, A. Lazaro, F. Giacomozzi, and B.
Margesin, MEMS-based 180 phase switch for differential radiome-
ters, IEEETrans. Microw. Theory Tech., vol. 58, no. 5, pp. 12641272,
May 2012.
[4] H. Chandrahalim, S. A. Bhave, R. G. Polcawich, J. S. Pulskamp, and
R. Kaul, PZT transduced high-overtone width-extensional resonators
above 1 GHz, in Proc. IEEE Ultrason. Symp., 2009, pp. 21452148.
[5] J. S. Pulskamp, S. S. Bedair, R. G. Polcawich, G. L. Smith, J. Martin,
B. Power, and S. A. Bhave, Electrode-shaping for the excitation and
detection of arbitrary modes in arbitrary geometries in piezoelectric
resonators, IEEE Trans. Ultrason., Ferroelectr., Freq. Control, vol.
59, no. 5, pp. 10431060, May 2012.
[6] G. Piazza, P. J. Stephanou, and A. P. Pisano, One and two port piezo-
electric higher order contour-mode MEMS resonators for mechanical
signal processing, Solid State Electron., vol. 51, pp. 15961608, 2007.
[7] G. Piazza, P. J. Stephanou, and A. P. Pisano, Piezoelectric aluminum
nitride vibrating contour-mode MEMS resonators, JMEMS, vol. 15,
no. 6, pp. 14061418, Dec. 2006.
[8] A. L. Kholkin et al., Characterization of the effective electrostriction
coefcients in ferroelectric thin lms, J. Appl. Phys., vol. 89, no. 12,
pp. 80668073, Jun. 2001.
[9] R. G. Polcawich and J.S. Pulskamp, MEMS Materials and Processes
Handbook, R. Ghodssi and P. Lin, Eds., 1st ed. New York: Springer,
2011, pp. 273344.
[10] S. S. Bedair, J. S. Pulskamp, R. G. Polcawich, D. Judy, A. Gillon,
S. Bhave, and B. Morgan, Low loss micromachined lead zirconate
titanate, contour mode resonator with 50 termination, in Proc.
MEMS12, Paris, France, 29 Jan.2 Feb. 2012, pp. 708712.