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Multi-Position RF MEMS Tunable Capacitors Using Laterally Moving Sidewalls of 3-D Micromachined Transmission Lines

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3 Author(s)
Umer Shah ; Micro and Nanosystems, School of Electrical Engineering, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden ; Mikael Sterner ; Joachim Oberhammer

This paper presents a novel concept of RF microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) tunable capacitors based on the lateral displacement of the sidewalls of a 3-D micromachined coplanar transmission line. The tuning of a single device is achieved in multiple discrete and well-defined tuning steps by integrated multi-stage MEMS electrostatic actuators that are embedded inside the ground layer of the transmission line. Three different design concepts, including devices with up to seven discrete tuning steps up to a tuning range of 58.6 to 144.5 fF (C_{\max }/ C_{\min} = 2.46) , have been fabricated and characterized. The highest Q factor, measured by a weakly coupled transmission-line resonator, was determined as 88 at 40 GHz and was achieved for a device concept where the mechanical suspension elements were completely de-coupled from the RF signal path. These devices have demonstrated high self-actuation robustness with self-actuation pull-in occurring at 41.5 and 47.8 dBm for mechanical spring constants of 5.8 and 27.7 N/m, respectively. Nonlinearity measurements revealed that the third-order intermodulation intercept point (IIP3) for all discrete device states is above the measurement-setup limit of 68.5 dBm for our 2.5-GHz IIP3 setup, with a dual-tone separation of 12 MHz. Based on capacitance/gap/spring measurements, the IIP3 was calculated for all states to be between 71–91 dBm. For a mechanical spring design of 5.8 N/m, the actuation and release voltages were characterized as 30.7 and 21.15 V, respectively, and the pull-in time for the actuator bouncing to drop below 8% of the gap was measured to be 140 \mu s. The mechanical resonance frequencies were measured to be 5.3 and 17.2 kHz for spring constant designs of 5.8 and 27.7 N/m, respectively. Reliability ch- racterization exceeded 1 billion cycles, even in an uncontrolled atmospheric environment, with no degradation in the pull-in/pull-out hysteresis behavior being observed over these cycling tests.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques  (Volume:61 ,  Issue: 6 )