Concept of the Nanotec ProjectThe aim of the NANOTEC project is to significantly enhance the reliability of RF-MEMS switches by using nanostructured materials (e.g. as dielectrics) as well as to demonstrate highly adaptive and miniaturised telecommunication and RF-sensing circuits, antenna front-ends and systems enabled by monolithical integration of low-loss RF-MEMS switches in GaN/GaAs/SiGe IC foundry processes from OMMIC, IHP and TRT. Future smart systems for communication and RF-sensing will have to achieve autonomous and self-reconfigurable operations, for real-time and efficient self-optimization of their performance. The needs for such reconfigurable systems are not only to overcome the design trade-offs that current analogue components must endure, but also to realize new and more efficient systems with improved functionality (i.e. better performance) as well as reduced size, weight, power and cost. The aim of the NANOTEC project is to develop new technology approaches and methodologies for existing as well as future generations of such highly adaptive and also reliable RF-systems to be integrated within T/R modules, smart active/passive and reflect array antennas, etc. The following technologies are now emerging to face all of these challenges, Nanostructured materials (to be used as dielectrics in RF-MEMS devices in order to achieve more reliable devices by minimizing charging effects and by improving thermal dissipation under high power), Wide Band Gap (WBG) semiconductors (such as GaN and AlN who are expected to play a fundamental role in the development of future smart systems, exhibiting unprecedented power performance along with suitable reconfigurable architectures, and adaptability to operational changes), RF MEMS switches (used as switching/tuning circuits, they appear as an enabling technology in order to achieve the reconfigurability required for future smart systems due to the highly attractive RF properties such as low insertion loss and power consumption as well as high isolation, power handling capability (linearity) and possibilities for high level of integration), SiGe BiCMOS (those technologies are becoming more and more the standard to realize complex microwave and mm-mave circuitry for certain RF communication and sensing applications). Finaly NANOTEC builds strongly on the monolithic integration of RF-MEMS components with active microwave/mm-wave devices like GaN, GaAs and SiGe BiCMOS transistors. This allows a tighter integration, reduced parasitics and, in case of the Si/SiGe BiCMOS integration with RF MEMS, a monolithic circuit complexity significantly beyond the current state of the art.
Objectives of the Nanotec project
NANOTEC responds directly to Challenge 3 (Objective ICT-2011.3.2, Smart components and smart systems integration) within the ICT call, and more specifically by addressing the topics and target outcomes of the program line “a) Future smart components and smart systems” with respect to Materials, technologies, processes, manufacturing techniques and design methods for Innovative smart components (Systems on Chip or Systems in a Package) demonstrating very advanced performance, Miniaturized and integrated smart systems with advanced functionality and performance including nanoscale sensing systems, Autonomously operating, power efficient and networked smart systems, Robust systems, compatible and adaptive to environment and lifetime requirements.
Thus the NANOTEC project objectives are, on one hand, to significantly enhance the reliability of RF-MEMS switches by using nanostructured materials (e.g. as dielectrics) and on the other hand to demonstrate highly adaptive, high-performance and miniaturised telecommunication and RF-sensing circuits, front-ends and systems enabled by monolithical integration of low-loss RF-MEMS switches in GaN/GaAs/SiGe foundry processes (System on Chip or System in a Package).
More specifically, some further objectives within the NANOTEC project are to explore and evaluate new nanostructured materials to be used as dielectrics in RF-MEMS devices in order to achieve more reliable devices by minimizing charging effects and by improving thermal dissipation under high power, introduce a highly miniaturized version of the capacitive MEMS switch, resulting in enhanced mechanical properties and consequently leading to high-reliability, high-power and high-speed capabilities, develop GaN/GaAs based MMIC/IC process technologies (from OMMIC and TRT) with on-chip integration of RF-MEMS switches in order to address the need for smart active components with very advanced high performance, with a high degree of robustness, capable of very high frequency operation up to 100 GHz, develop a high performance, very high frequency Si/SiGe BiCMOS technology (from IHP) where the system-on-a-chip functionality will be enhanced by fully monolithically integrated RF-MEMS switches for the first time operating at frequencies up to 140 GHz and finally to investigate the feasiblity of using such a highly advanced Si/SiGe BiCMOS process with on-chip MEMS switches at frequencies beyond 80 GHz, and to validate this potential in demonstrators. On-chip integration of MEMS switches in a 130 nm SiGe process enables innovative reconfigurable smart components which can operate at very high frequencies, adds advanced functionality (complete T/R-module and digital circuitry on one chip) and is able to operate under special conditions due to built-in self-calibration and adaptability.