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CMOS MEMS allows designers to maximize tools, techs and processes

Posted: 03 Apr 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ken gabriel? akustica? opinion? cmos? mems?

The proprietary fabrication processes required for most MEMS devices have limited the growth of traditional MEMS technologies. In contrast, CMOS MEMS, a new approach to building MEMS structures directly inside standard CMOS IC materials, represents a breakthrough in monolithic devices.

Akustica's CMOS MEMS structures are fabricated from the metal-dielectric layers of CMOS that are deposited during the standard CMOS processing flow. This contrasts sharply with other MEMS technologies fabricated in films on top of CMOS, making them only CMOS-compatible. Our approach enables system engineers to integrate multiple sensors and associated electronics into one common platform, rather than build each circuit discretely with various process technologies and packages. Sensors on a single CMOS MEMS die share the same silicon substrate and are intimately connected on-chip.

To date, MEMS development strategies requiring custom and captive MEMS fabrications processes have been the norm. Commercial successes have required significant funding, effort and time-to-market. To accelerate and promote the commercialization of MEMS, alternative development strategies are needed. This is especially true in consumer electronics. CMOS MEMS' ability to integrate mechanical devices and signal processing on a single chip opens up new doors to smart sensors, including those in the consumer electronics market.

CMOS MEMS chips will soon become as commonplace as standard CMOS devices. Thanks to widespread CMOS models and simulation tools, they certainly will be as familiar and as easy to use. Leveraging economies of scale, high quality and maturity of the semiconductor industry, CMOS MEMS will offer a cost-effective solution that goes from design to prototype in a matter of weeks.

We soon expect MEMS microphones to replace standard electret condenser microphones. New microphone design times will align with the rapid design cycles of the CE industry in applications such as notebook PCs, mobile phones and digital media systems.

Microphones are only one possibility. CMOS MEMS will enable single-chip integration of electromechanical sensor structures with analog and digital signal processing functions to produce acoustic, inertial and RF SoCs. As a result, countless electronic products will be able to hear, speak and sense the world around them.

- Ken Gabriel
Founder and CTO
Akustica Inc.

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