The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is providing $1.4 million
to a Phase III research project led by the U.S.
Department of Energy (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory 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 (UNCDTM) film technology.
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
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.
"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 said. "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."
In the DARPA Phase II program, the Argonne-led team achieved several key goals:
- materials integration and processes to fabricate UNCD-based resonators;
- integration of UNCD films with CMOS devices;
- demonstration of UNCD dielectric properties suitable for application as
low-charge/low-force of adhesion dielectric layer for RF capacitive MEMS switches;
- and demonstration of UNDC-dielectric-based RF MEMS switches that surpassed
one-billion switching cycles with low (approximately 0.17-decibel) insertion
losses at about 10 gigahertz.
Argonne is the world leader 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 prized for its exceptionally
small grain size of 5 nanometers, which is thousands of times smaller than grains
in traditional microcrystalline diamond films.
Argonne's five research partners each bring specific interdisciplinary expertise
and capabilities that are critical to the success of the DARPA Phase III program.
- Advanced Diamond Technologies, a Romeoville, Ill.-based Argonne spin off
company that commercializes UNCD, is the world leader in the development and
application of diamond films for industrial, electronic and medical applications.
ADT provides diamond film and materials integration solutions to a variety
of industry participants in diverse application areas. ADT has developed a
low-temperature process for producing UNCD films, and a number of wafer-scale
products suitable for integration of UNCD with other materials for MEMS applications,
including diamond-on-silicon and diamond-on-insulator wafers up to 200 millimeters
in size with unprecedented property uniformity.
- Innovative Micro Technology manufactures MEMS devices and its overriding
goal is to partner with companies to develop products based on MEMS technology.
IMT has the largest and best-equipped MEMS foundry facility in the world providing
full services from MEMS design to high-volume manufacturing of MEMS devices,
including drug delivery, biomedical implants, microfluidics, inertial navigation,
sensors, telephone/digital subscriber line switching, and RF devices (critical
to the DARPA Phase III), among many other devices. IMT will fabricate the
RE MEMS switches for the DARPA Phase III program.
- MEMtronics, of Plano, Texas is a privately-held company focused on the
development and maturation of RF MEMS switching technology. This technology
is being incorporated into phase shifter and tunable filter products targeted
at a variety of military and commercial wireless and radar applications. MEMtronics
has designed and demonstrated some of the most advanced RF MEMS switches to
date— a critical component
- Peregrine Semiconductor is a global leader of high-performance RF CMOS
devices. Peregrine's patented UltraCMOS™ process technology —
enabled by silicon on sapphire substrates — drives unprecedented levels
of monolithic integration throughout a broad portfolio of mixed-signal RF
ICs. The UltraCMOS process technology will drive the UNCD-based RF MEMS switches
designed by MEMtronics and fabricated by IMT, in the Phase III program.
- University of Pennsylvania Professor Robert W. Carpick leads a group that
is conducting world-class research on tribology and mechanical properties
of materials using novel atomic force microscopy and surface science tools.
The university group will provide unique expertise and tools to characterize
the tribological and mechanical performance of UNCD-based MEMS.