Magnetic Micromachined Structures for RF MEMS Applications

Mark G. Allen Georgia Institute of Technology School of Electrical and Computer Engineering Atlanta, GA 30332-0250 USA Many RF systems motivate the integration of passive inductors with CMOS circuitry. An important issue for integrated RF inductors on silicon is minimization of parasitic effects, e.g., coupling capacitance between the inductors and the substrate, and losses caused by induced eddy currents in the substrate. Three-dimensional solenoid-type inductors using MEMS surface micromachining have been suggested for reduced substrate coupling. A drawback to many of these approaches is that the resultant etched wafers and/or inductor structures may be too delicate to withstand subsequent conventional injection-molding-based or other chip packaging approaches. In this research, surface micromachined, epoxyembedded, high-Q electroplated inductors have been fabricated. These inductors combine the desirable features of: (1) being supported by both electroplated posts and a deposited thick dielectric layer, thereby separating them from the lossy silicon substrate; and (2) being embedded in the epoxy molds from which they are formed, minimizing microphonics and allowing sufficient mechanical stability such that the chips bearing the inductors can be packaged using standard injectionmolding processes. An additional processing benefit from the embedded structure is that the epoxy mold used to form the inductors need not be removed in a lengthy etch step. To demonstrate the compatibility of the reducedparasitic, embedded inductor process with CMOS circuitry, four inductors are post-processed onto a foundry-fabricated RF CMOS power amplifier. Fig. 1 shows an SEM view of a fabricated embedded inductor. This device is a test inductor and the extended probe pads can be seen as the three G-S-G pads on either side of the device. The solenoid coil is 25µm above the Si substrate. The coil width, w, is 20µm, the turn-to-turn pitch is 80µm, and the height of the solenoid core is 50µm. The via has a cross-section of 25µm×30µm.

Magnetic structures can also be employed in high frequency switch applications such as reconfigurable antennas. Previous MEMS switches have either used electrostatic or magnetic forces to effect actuation. In RF circuits, there is a need to reduce the switch OFF capacitance by creating a large standoff distance, as well as have minimal switching voltages to make the voltage requirements compatible with other portions of the system. In addition, to use the switch in transmit mode, it must be able to pass large currents. Due to these constraints, a combined magnetic/electrostatic approach becomes desirable, in which magnetic actuation is used to rotate a structure through a large distance and electrostatic clamping is used to hold the structure in position. This actuation scheme was presented previously by Judy et al. for use in display applications. Using a modification of this approach, we have successfully designed and fabricated arrays of switches that are magnetically actuated and electrostatically clamped, that possesses a large open state air gap, and that are capable of passing currents in excess of 1 A. Figure 2 illustrates the switch concept. When a magnetic field is applied to the array of switches, magnetically actuatable cantilever beams are pulled down to make contact with the signal line. Simultaneously the beams are in close proximity to a lower electrode pad. Once the switches are closed, a voltage is applied (across the nowsmall gap) to the particular switches that are desired to stay closed. The magnetic field is then removed and those switches without the applied voltage are pulled open due to the elastic restoring force on the unclamped beams.

Figure 2. Device Concept.

After fabrication, the switch was tested for magnetic actuation and electrostatic clamping. The total dimensions of the switch were 2 mm in length and 500 microns in width. The dimensions of the lower electrode pads were 800 microns by 500 microns. The air gap was 25-30 microns wide, and the NiFe cantilever beam thickness ranged from 6-8 microns. An external magnetic field from a permanent magnet was used to actuate the switch array as shown in Figure 2. After selective application of the electrostatic clamping voltage, the magnetic field could be removed and the switch remained latched.

Figure 1. Embedded inductor on Si substrate A power amplifier with a single-stage common-source topology was designed as a test vehicle for the embedded inductors. The amplifier was fabricated using a 0.24-µm CMOS foundry technology. Following the foundry fabrication, four embedded micromachined inductors were fabricated on the CMOS chip. The power amplifier integrated with inductors shows a gain of 6.7dB and a 20% maximum power added efficiency (PAE) when it is driven at 0.8GHz. These results indicate that the embedded inductors are performing successfully.

Figure 3. Fabricated switch Switch parameters under a variety of actuation test conditions were measured. Magnetic actuation occurred at approximately 120 Gauss, and electrostatic clamping was achieved at voltages between 9-25 volts, depending on the switch geometry. Contact resistances of 0.37 ohm were achieved, and maximum currents of 0.65 A (hot) and 1.25 A (cold) could be switched.

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