Mobius Microsystems debuts all-CMOS oscillator to replace quartz, MEMS

By Barbara G. Goode, Editor in Chief, Small Times

April 9, 2008 — Mobius Microsystems, Inc. has introduced what it calls “the world’s most accurate, monolithic, all-CMOS frequency generators,” based on its patented CMOS Harmonic Oscillator (CHO) technology. Mobius hopes its CHO-based products will displace quartz crystals, which have been the industry standard for decades, as well as the newer MEMS-based devices from startups such as Discera and SiTime, predicted by Wicht Technologie Consulting to grow dramatically. Mobius’s Tunc Cenger told Small Times that electronics designers have long considered that an all-CMOS resonator would be the best possible solution for timing-reference needs, but it wasn’t clear whether such a device was actually feasible.

Frequency generators are integral components of all electronics and systems that need to communicate data. “Frequency references and oscillators are essential components for a broad range of applications,” said Steve Cullen, a contributing analyst at InStat, in a statement. “Mobius’ CMOS Harmonic Oscillator . . . fits perfectly with the timing industry’s continued drive toward more integrated and smaller package solutions,” he noted.

“CHO provides excellent phase noise and jitter attributes — and that,” Cenger told Small Times, “is the greatest innovation Mobius brings to the market. That and the possibilities of integration with the standard CMOS implementation,” he added.

Mobius claims that its patented CHO achieves accuracy levels that match the performance requirements of today’s common high-speed interface links. While quartz and MEMS devices are also available to address applications needing greater accuracy, Cenger told Small Times that Mobius’s targeted applications, including USB devices, have less stringent requirements and represent a very large market.

Both quartz and MEMS-based solutions require external components. But Mobius’s CHO technology allows mainstream electronics to “finally be rid of the last non-CMOS component . . . and achieve the highest levels of integration,” the company notes. For a design engineer, the benefits are lower costs, smaller and thinner end products, and improved reliability.

Because it is built on standard CMOS process, the technology benefits from a well established manufacturing infrastructure, and shortens order lead times to best respond to the fluctuating demands of the consumer electronics market, Cenger explained.

“The CHO technology removes the size, frequency and reliability limitations of quartz – all of which are significant bottlenecks in electronics design today,” said Ashok Dhawan, Chief Executive of Mobius Microsystems, in a statement. “We believe that a widely used and deeply entrenched product such as quartz will only be replaced by an even more ubiquitous, proven and successful technology such as standard CMOS. Our CHO technology is the result of this conviction, and years of intensive development work.”

Integration within CMOS of functions previously provided externally has proven successful for other operations, including WiFi. Athenos is one of the companies that made WiFi available directly within CMOS.

Mobius’ first announced product to use CHO technology is the MM8511, a fully integrated spread spectrum clock generator IC. The device replaces a quartz crystal and a PLL timing IC, and offers a single-chip solution to reduce the electromagnetic interference (EMI) in today’s electronic products. The device is offered in a variety of output frequencies and spread spectrum profiles. Evaluation boards will be available in May 2008, with production quantities coming available in Q308.


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