Menlo Micro and Corning demo through glass via (TGV) package for MEMS switch applications

By Warren Miller, contributing writer

As intricate
and complex as electronic systems have become in the digital world, they still
rely on some of the same essential building blocks as they have since the days
of transistor radios. One of those building blocks is the electronic switch — a
device that diverts electrical current from one conductor to another. While at
first blush it may seem as if there might not be much room for innovation
regarding such a basic component, Menlo Micro and Corning Inc. have
collaborated to develop a new benchmark in digital micro-switch technology.

By integrating
through glass via (TGV) packaging technology, Menlo can reduce the size of its
high-performance RF and power products by more than 60 percent compared to
standard available wire-bond packaging technology. This TGV packaging method
makes the Menlo/Corning Digital-Micro-Switch (DMS) especially apt for
applications requiring reduced size and weight and/or increased channel
density.

Replacing
traditional wire bonds with metallized vias enables support for the higher
frequencies becoming increasingly more necessary in wireless communication
systems as well as a multitude of military and aerospace applications. The
properties of glass (as opposed to more typical materials like silicon) result
in higher overall efficiency while simultaneously reducing energy consumption.
In addition, by replacing wire bonds with metallized vias, Menlo reduced package
parasitics by more than 75 percent, supporting increasingly higher frequencies. 

Menlo
Micro’s 8-inch RF MEMS wafer with wafer-level-bonded TGV Cap Wafer from Corning.
(Source: Menlo Micro)

“The
initial decision we made to develop our DMS technology as a metal-to-metal
contact switch on a glass substrate was critical to ensure performance,” said
Chris Keimel, CTO at Menlo Micro, in a press release.

“Our
switch is extremely broadband — able to operate from DC
to beyond 50 GHz – but packaging has always been a limitation,” he continued. “By
moving to TGV we have eliminated the unnecessary interconnects that had been
limiting performance. More importantly, as our partner and investor, Corning
delivered a high-performance via in glass, and our hermeticity and reliability
requirements are also achieved. This will allow us to push our product roadmap
into new markets. We are substantially increasing performance and reducing
overall size and cost to levels that will be truly transformative to many
applications.”

The
push to performance levels at and beyond 50 GHz could open several new
applications areas. Satellites for Earth exploration, radio navigation, inter-satellite
communications, and mobile communication are just a few of the possibilities. Back
on Earth, 50 GHz also opens up applications for automotive radar, one of the
key technologies in the autonomous vehicle sector.