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issue: March 2007 APPLIANCE Magazine

Electronics Report
Reliable Resonator


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Based on a patented processing technology, a new silicon resonator is designed to replace quartz oscillators to enable smaller, more functional, reliable appliances.

The SiT0100 is manufactured with a proprietary process that is designed to withstand extremely harsh environmental conditions, allowing the device to endure the rigors of plastic molding, wire bonding and lead-free soldering.

At 0.8 mm tall by 0.6 mm wide by 0.15 mm thick, the SiT0100 is said to be the world’s smallest and thinnest megahertz resonator. According to SiTime, its latest resonator is far smaller than the nearest quartz design and can be shipped in die form.
“The SiT0100 is a semiconductor ‘silicon’ chip,” explains Joe Brown, head of strategic alliances and co-founder of SiTime (Sunnyvale, California, U.S.). “The design strategy was to utilize the existing infrastructure for silicon technology and create a silicon-based vibrating resonator that would provide the performance (stability) to compete with the existing quartz technology.”
Unlike quartz, the megahertz resonator may be placed in a multiple chip module or system-in-package solution and handled as any semiconductor die. According to the company, the resonator may be wire-bonded or flip-chipped and then undergo plastic encapsulation with no substantial change in performance.
The resonator operates at 5.1 MHz and has a Q (quality factor) of approximately 80,000. The phase noise performance is -115 dBc / Hz @ 10 kHz, which the company says allows it be used in most consumer, automotive and industrial frequency control applications. The device has a power consumption of only 12 mA, and when combined with an oscillator circuit, SiTime says the power consumption is similar to quartz devices with similar Qs.
According to Brown, achieving the performance needed to compete with quartz has been a challenge for the industry. “Other attempts have failed or need to bring elaborate packing techniques to ensure this level of performance,” he says. “This will make any other solution more expensive and require a much larger form factor.”
The SiT0100 is created using a processing technology patented by Robert Bosch GmbH, one of SiTime’s investors. Named MEMS First™, the processing sequence allows for high-temperature processing (1,100°C) of the micro electro mechanical systems (MEMS) device early in the process. An EpiSeal™ process encapsulates the resonator in what the company says is “an extremely clean, high-vacuum cavity.” This is said to allow the single crystal silicon beam to resonate in a completely contamination-free environment.
“This technology removes the need for additional processing to create the protective capping of the mechanical device with elaborate schemes of alignment and wafer bonding as the MEMS device is exposed in other product designs,” Brown says. “It is the most efficient and cost-effective method to encapsulate a mechanical device in silicon.”
One of the device’s key features is its reliability. Due to its small size and mass, the resonator is reportedly able to withstand 30,000 Gs of shock and a 50 Hz to 1 kHz 15 G continuous sine wave. In addition, thanks to what the company calls “a near-perfect resonating environment,” the part ages less than 0.15 ppm per year for 25 years with no detectable thermal hysteresis, thus eliminating frequency error sources that can be difficult to calibrate.
In addition, Brown says the silicon-based technology allows for integration of the time reference in the timing chip itself. “In the total timing solution, no longer will there need to be a monolithic quartz crystal provided from a separate source. No longer will the quartz crystal need to be assembled on the printed circuit board and subject to damage during the assembly process,” he says. “The silicon solution advances technology and can provide for multiple frequency sourcing within the chip itself.”

 

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