Micromachined Components for RF Systems

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Yoon, Yong-Kyu
Allen, Mark G.
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Several fabrication techniques for surface micromachined 3-D structures have been developed for RF components. The fabrication techniques all have in common the use of epoxy patterning and subsequent metallization. Techniques and structures such as embedded conductors, epoxy-core conductors, a reverse-side exposure technique, a multi-exposure scheme, and inclined patterning are presented. The epoxy-core conductor technique makes it easy to fabricate high-aspect-ratio (10-20:1), tall (~1mm) RF subelements as well as potentially very complex structures by taking advantage of advanced epoxy processes. To demonstrate feasibility and usefulness of the developed fabrication techniques for RF applications, two test vehicles are employed. One is a solenoid type RF inductor, and the other is a millimeter wave radiating structure such as a W-band quarter-wavelength monopole antenna. The embedded inductor approach provides mechanical robustness and package compatibility as well as good electrical performance. An inductor with a peak Q-factor of 21 and an inductance of 2.6nH at 4.5GHz has been fabricated on a silicon substrate. In addition, successful integration with a CMOS power amplifier has been demonstrated. A high-aspect-ratio inductor fabricated using epoxy core conductors shows a maximum Q-factor of 84 and an inductance of 1.17nH at 2.6GHz on a glass substrate with a height of 900um and a single turn. Successful W-band monopole antenna fabrication is demonstrated. A monopole with a height of 800um shows its radiating resonance at 85GHz with a return loss of 16dB. In addition to the epoxy-based devices, an advanced tunable ferroelectric device architecture is introduced. This architecture enables a low-loss conductor device; a reduced intermodulation distortion (IMD) device; and a compact tunable LC module. A single-finger capacitor having a low-loss conductor with an electrode gap of 1.2um and an electrode thickness of 2.2um has been fabricated using a reverse-side exposure technique, showing a tunability of 33% at 10V. It shows an improved Q-factor of 21.5. Reduced IMD capacitors consist of wide RF gaps and narrowly spaced high resistivity electrodes with a gap of 2um and a width of 2um within the wide gap. A 14um gap and a 20um gap capacitor show improved IMD performance compared to a 4um gap capacitor by 6dB and 15dB, respectively, while the tunability is approximately 21% at 30V for all three devices due to the narrowly spaced multi-pair high resistivity DC electrodes within the gap. Finally, a compact tunable LC module is implemented by forming the narrow gap capacitor in an inductor shape. The resonance frequency of this device is variable as a function of DC bias and a frequency tunability of 1.1%/V is achieved. The RF components developed in this thesis illustrate the usefulness of the application of micromachining technology to this application area, especially as frequencies of operation of RF systems continue to increase (and therefore wavelengths continue to shrink).
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