Liwen Sang, independent scientist at International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics, National Institute for Materials Science (also JST PRESTO researcher) has developed a MEMS resonator that stably operates even under high temperatures by regulating the strain due to the lattice mismatch and thermal mismatch between GaN and Si.
High-precision synchronization is required for 5G, in conjunction with high speed and capacity. To that end, a high-performance frequency reference oscillator that can balance the temporal stability and temporal resolution is necessary as a timing device to generate signals in a fixed cycle. The conventional quartz resonator as the oscillator has poor integration capability and its application is limited. Although a micro-electromechanical system (MEMS) resonator can achieve a high temporal resolution with small phase noise and superior integration capability, silicon (Si)-based MEMS devices suffer from bad stability at higher temperatures.
In this study, a high-quality GaN epitaxial film was fabricated on a Si substrate using metal organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) to make the GaN resonator. Strain engineering was proposed to improve the temporal performance. Strain was achieved by utilizing the lattice mismatch and thermal mismatch between the GaN and the Si substrate. Consequently, GaN was directly grown on Si without any strain-removal layer. By optimizing the temperature decrease method during MOCVD growth, no cracking was observed on the GaN and its crystalline quality remained comparable to that obtained by the conventional method of using a superlattice strain-removal layer.
The GaN-based MEMS resonator was verified to operate stably even at 600 K. It showed a high temporal resolution and good temporal stability with little frequency shift when the temperature was increased. This is because the internal thermal strain compensated the frequency shift and reduced the energy dissipation. Since the device is small, highly sensitive and can be integrated with CMOS technology, it is promising for use in 5G communication, IoT timing devices, in-vehicle applications, and advanced driver assistance systems.
The research was supported by JST’s Strategic Basic Research Program, Precursory Research for Embryonic Science and Technology(PRESTO). This study was presented at the IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM2020) held online on December 12-18, 2020, titled “Self-Temperature-Compensated GaN MEMS Resonators through Strain Engineering up to 600 K.”
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