Menlo Micro Reinvents the RF Switch with a 10X Performance Gain

Menlo Micro has launched its revolutionary Digital-Micro-Switch (DMS) technology platform at the Mobile World Congress 2017. Now qualified for production, this next-generation wafer-level process enables the fabrication of micro-mechanical switches for both power and RF applications. With the DMS process, Menlo has demonstrated a leading RonCoff performance below 50 fs, and will sample devices at 10 fs, a 10x improvement compared to traditional switches, in the next 12-18 months. RonCoff is the key figure-of-merit used by the semiconductor industry to quantify the quality or performance of an RF switch. With the proliferation of new frequency bands, including much higher frequencies, the performance of the RF switch will become an increasingly important factor in enabling higher data-rates, longer battery life, and much more flexible architectures for 5G applications. Menlo Micro is demonstrating this technology at Mobile World Congress.

Using proprietary materials, designs, and wafer-level processing techniques licensed exclusively from General Electric, Menlo’s DMS technology has proven reliability and can not only handle kW of power, but can be scaled down in size and cost to making it cost-competitive with silicon-on-insulator (SOI). The switches are made from proprietary metal alloys, plated onto glass wafers with through glass vias (TGV) from supplier and investor Corning Incorporated, resulting in extremely high reliability and improved RF performance.

In addition to the key figure-of-merit RonCoff, Menlo has demonstrated linearity above +90 dBm, which is 15 - 20 dB better than what is traditionally considered best-in-class performance. Switches that the company now has in development will have insertion loss of less than 0.3 dB at 12 GHz and cover bandwidths from DC - 18 GHz, with the ability to extend up to even higher frequencies, including mmWave.

In addition to the performance advantages, the Menlo DMS process is typically 12 metal layers, thanks to advancements in high-temperature, high-reliability alloys. With only half of the manufacturing steps required of a typical CMOS wafer, the process can be scaled to be cost-competitive with SOI, enabling high-volume applications such as antenna switch modules (ASM), filters, tuning networks, and band-switching for next-generation 5G smartphones and communications systems. Menlo is actively engaged with a number of technology partners to license the DMS technology into the consumer mobile handset market.