GE touts MEMS switches for smartphones, LTE-Advanced networks

GE announced that it is working with development partners to license a proprietary process for microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) that can be used to create tiny radio-frequency switches for wireless devices as well as network infrastructure.

In addition to licensing the process, GE said it hopes to collaborate with partners to enable other low-cost manufacturing options to encourage adoption of the MEMS technology in numerous consumer and industrial applications.

The company contends its MEMS-based switches can enable increased data transfer speeds, enhanced signal quality, longer battery life and advanced RF designs.

GE Global Research Center developed the new MEMS process, which GE said uses a unique material set "that allows the switch to operate for billions of cycles under extreme operating conditions, such as elevated temperature, while maintaining extremely low contact resistance."

According to Chris Keimel, process development engineer at GE Global Research: "We have developed a common device fabrication platform that allows us to pack hundreds of microscopic relays together on a single die for industrial power control or alternately, to create high-isolation, low-loss RF switches for next-generation RF communications products."

In a GE video, Keimel said MEMS traditionally is used in sensors and microactuators "that are the size of a human hair or less." They are typically found in automotive airbag sensors and video gaming systems, he noted.

Source: GE

GE said its new MEMS approach is suitable for both RF front-end modules and wireless infrastructure products for next-generation LTE-Advanced mobile networks. While the technology appears initially targeted at devices, GE said that "the modular unit-cell design can be scaled up to support higher-power applications including wireless infrastructure."

Chris Giovanniello, vice president of business development for GE Ventures Licensing, contends GE's metal-MEMS will deliver performance at prices comparable to silicon on insulator (SOI), gallium arsenide (GaAs) and other semiconductor technologies. 

In the company video, Giovanniello said GE's process technology results in MEMS devices that are less than 100 microns in dimension, enabling many to fit on a wafer and, thus, drive down manufacturing costs.

For more:
- see this GE release
- see this GigaOM article

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