Over the past decade, Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) have been very widely adopted in electronics. While they started out as life-saving components in the Automotive industry (air-bag sensors, tire pressure monitoring systems), they have recently been adopted by many consumer electronic devices such as SmartPhones, Tablets, Digital Cameras, gaming systems, etc. Typical components that are used in such systems include sensors, gyroscopes, and microphones.
Over the past five years, MEMS Oscillators have been replacing quartz crystal oscillators in electronics applications. MEMS oscillators offer the benefits of more features, higher performance, faster availability, higher robustness and reliability and lower cost, and hence their adoption is accelerating.
The advent of MEMS oscillators in electronic devices started with consumer electronic and computing devices such as laptops, DVRs, set top boxes and digital cameras. Recently, with the introduction of higher performance devices such as the Encore-based platform from SiTime, MEMS oscillators are penetrating higher performance applications such as:
- Telecom infrastructure – core routers based on SONET and Synchronous Ethernet and optical networking systems require very stable devices, such as MEMS TCXOs (Temperature Compensated Oscillators) for their high performance applications.
- High performance storage applications such as Storage Area Networks and RAID systems based on SATA, SAS and FibreChannel protocols have also recently adopted the use of differential MEMS oscillators to replace high frequency SAW (Surface Acoustic Wave) crystal oscillators.
- Wireless Applications, such as cellphone base-stations and repeaters are also adopting the usage of differential and single-ended MEMS oscillators which require very high robustness and reliability, as well as very low phase noise.
MEMS VCXOs (Voltage Controlled Oscillators) provide a level of pullability and fine-tuning that is required for synchronization of clock signals, and are also used in such applications.
Benefits of MEMS Oscillators
- Can be programmed for any signaling level such as LVPECL, LVDS, CML, HCSL, or LVCMOS, supporting a variety of different products and applications
- * Programmable for any frequency within the operating range, which allows for performance optimization and flexibility.
- Production lead times of 3-5 weeks, which enables better inventory control and management, flexibility in meeting upsides and simplified supply chain.
- Programmable for any of the standard operating voltages such as 1.8V, 2.5V, 2.8V and 3.3V, to interface with a wide variety of SOCs and ASSPs.
- Frequency stability as low as 10 PPM for better system timing margin and reliability, leading to longer life electronics. Better stability also offers improved immunity against low frequency environmental noise that comes from power lines, fluorescent lights and transformers.
Robustness and reliability as high as 50,000 G of shock resistance and 70 G of vibration resistance and 500 Million hours of Mean Time Between Failure is ten times better than quartz.