Tunable piezoelectric MEMS inductor

Achieves an order of magnitude increase in tunability along with a high Q factor


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ARL’s tunable RF MEMS inductor can be integrated into a variety of radio communication devices and radar systems. (Image Credit: WikiImages on Pixabay)

An Army Research Laboratory scientist has developed a high-Q RF MEMS inductor for advanced integrated circuits. The patented technology is available via license agreement to companies that would make, use, or sell it commercially.

Micro-electromechanical system (MEMS) devices are manufactured by integrated circuit (IC) fabrication techniques. MEMS devices typically include both electrical and mechanical components, such as inductors configured as a coil of conducting material wrapped around a ferromagnetic core. Such a core usually has a sufficiently high permeability to confine the magnetic field strictly to the inductor, which increases the inductance of the device. Inductors are found in RF matching networks, voltage controlled oscillators, and transceivers. For some applications, the inductor needs to be tunable.

Miniaturization of RF circuits has been exploited for cellular, wireless, radio, and radar systems, but is limited by the lack of high-performance on-chip inductors. Tunable RF MEMS inductors are an enabling technology for reconfigurable RF circuits, for example, to manipulate filter bandwidths. While there are several inductor designs available, there remains a need for a tunable piezoelectric MEMS inductor, that can be incorporated in different types of electrical circuits.

An ARL researcher has developed an inductor that achieves an order of magnitude increase in the tunability of MEMS inductors and thus provides massive tunability and high Q (half-width of the resonant peak) in advanced RF circuits. The inductor connects to either a DC circuit or a transmission line for operation at high frequencies. The lateral piezoelectric MEMS actuator triggers a multiple beam structure into the ferromagnetic material core of a high Q RF MEMS inductor. The internal magnetic flux density of the inductor is enhanced by the high magnetic permeability of the ferromagnetic material, thus altering the value of the inductance.

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