DARPA funds Argonne project to develop MEMs and CMOS-based mobile communication technology

June 23, 2008 — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory has received $1.4 million in funding from The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to a Phase III research project to develop high-performance integrated diamond microelectro-mechanical system (MEMS) and complementary metal-oxide-semiconductors devices (CMOS) for radar and mobile communications using an Argonne-developed and patented Ultrananocrystalline Diamond (UNCD) film technology.
DARPA, a U.S. Department of Defense organization that supports high-risk, transformational research, is interested in the development of advanced phased-array radar and communication systems for military and commercial applications. The integration of capacitive radio frequency (RF) MEMS and CMOS devices will enable rapid electronic steering of radar beams to substantially improve radar speed and precision. Monolithic RF MEMS/CMOS device integration will also greatly improve the multifunction performance of state-of-the-art wireless devices.
RF MEMS devices like resonators (tiny diving board-like structures at very high frequencies) and switches (tiny membranes that establish or disconnect electrical pathways) may substantially improve the functionality and performance of RF and microwave systems.
Argonne’s program partners are Advanced Diamond Technologies, Inc. (ADT), Innovative Micro Technology (IMT), MEMtronics Corp., Peregrine Semiconductor the University of Pennsylvania and Leigh University.
The project’s principal investigator and project manager is Derrick Mancini, associate division director for facilities and technology at the Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM) at Argonne. The project’s technical leader is Orlando Auciello, a senior scientist in Argonne’s Materials Science Division and the CNM.
“The UNCD film technology has the potential to improve the reliability of MEMS switches because of unique combination of properties such as resistance to adhesion between two surfaces in physical contact that can lead to premature switch failure, and because of demonstrated tunability of dielectric properties and leakage current” Auciello says. “In addition, UNCD films exhibit the highest Young’s modulus – the measure of a material’s stiffness under stress – of any material being investigate for MEMS resonators, and is currently the only technology that can produce diamond films at temperatures less than or equal to 400 degrees Celsius. Both characteristics provide critical parameters for producing resonators for very high frequency operations and the integration of diamond MEMS with advanced microelectronics, respectively.”
Argonne offers expertise in the fundamental and applied science of UNCD film technology and works jointly with academia and industry to develop new UNCD-based MEMS and other hybrid technologies, including the integration of oxide piezoelectric and UNCD films that produced the lowest power piezoelectrically-actuated UNCD resonators and nanoswitches demonstrated today. The CNM currently has the world’s only microwave plasma chemical vapor deposition system for growing UNCD films at less or equal to 400 degrees Celsius on up to 200-millimeter wafers, located in a clean room environment for nanoelectro-mechanical systems fabrication. The CNM provides the main expertise and infrastructure at Argonne critical for the success of the DARPA Phase III program. UNCD is known for its exceptionally small grain size of 5 nanometers, which is thousands of times smaller than grains in traditional microcrystalline diamond films.


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