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MEMX Receives Four SBIR Phase I Awards From NSF and National Eye Institute

Albuquerque, New Mexico – January 8, 2004:   MEMX, Inc., a broad-based MEMS company, has received four SBIR Phase I awards from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Eye Institute over the nine months from May 2003 to January 2004. Two of the awards are for a research program to develop tunable RF MEMS and a research program to develop a seven-level surface MEMS
  technology called SUMMiT VII. The other two awards are for research programs in ophthalmic adaptive optics.


May 14, 2003:   MEMX Receives $100,000 SBIR Phase I Award from the NSF for Research Program in Tunable RF MEMS  
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded MEMX, Inc. a $100,000 SBIR Phase I research grant to develop a highly integrated MEMS technology that will combine SUMMiT V, the world’s most advanced surface micromachining technology, with innovative thick metal films to produce RF devices of unmatched performance, cost and reliability. The selective thick film metallization of SUMMiT V structures will be employed by MEMX to design RF MEMS devices with both very low series resistance and high quality factors. This integrated technology – named GOLDFINGER by MEMX – will be demonstrated in the design and manufacture of a high performance tunable capacitor with low actuation voltage.
 
Modeling MEMS and NEMS, Pelesko
Tunable capacitors with such performance do not exist today, and the successful realization of this device will enable reductions in size, cost, and power consumption in the next generation of mobile phone handsets. The total RF MEMS market is predicted to reach >$1.0 billion by 2007, with RF MEMS being utilized in a wide range of applications. Satellite communication, auto electronics, RFID tags, adjustable antennas, LANs, base stations, radar systems, and other wireless products are just some of the market segments that would benefit from high performance RF MEMS devices.

Current RF MEMS development efforts are bumping up against significant technology limitations. Existing metal-based RF MEMS technologies have shown the ability to build devices with suitable Q, but the relative simplicity and immaturity of these technologies preclude the mechanical sophistication necessary to achieve a large tuning range and low operating voltage. Standard polysilicon MEMS technologies have superior mechanical complexity, but limitations on metal film thickness required to minimize stress result in high series resistance and low Q. The goal of this innovative research program is to develop methods of depositing thick metallic films on selective SUMMiT V polysilicon structures, permitting a fundamentally orthogonal approach to RF MEMS development. It is the sophistication of SUMMiT V that is truly enabling: stresses from thick metal films which would deform and buckle simpler polysilicon structures can be effectively managed through the multi-level reinforced mechanical structures possible within the 5 layer SUMMiT V technology.


June 20, 2003:   MEMX MEMX Receives $100,000 SBIR Phase I Award from the NSF for Research Program in Ophthalmic Adaptive Optics  
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded MEMX, Inc. a $100,000 SBIR Phase I research grant to design and deliver a low cost, MEMS-based wavefront correction device for use in ophthalmic adaptive optics systems. MEMX will leverage the most sophisticated surface micromachining technology available today to design and deliver, for the first time, a MEMS wavefront correction chip that addresses all of the requirements specified by the vision science community. The innovative research program employs the world’s most sophisticated surface micromachining technology (SUMMiT V) to bury low voltage electrostatic actuators underneath a multi-level reinforced polysilicon mirror. This design approach is only possible within SUMMiT V and guarantees high levels of manufacturability and reliability.

To complete this research program, a leading vision science researcher and pioneer in ophthalmic adaptive optics – Dr. David Williams from the University of Rochester – will work alongside the MEMX team. This program will deliver an order of magnitude improvement in the ability to image the retina, and as such will dramatically increase knowledge of retinal structures and performance. The devices developed as part of this research program will be made broadly available to clinical and scientific research teams, permitting them to pursue cutting edge research programs in vision science. Enhanced capabilities in fundus imaging will enable earlier detection of disease, better measurement of treatment effectiveness, and improved treatment techniques for a host of retinal diseases. These improved imaging capabilities will be an invaluable tool in the hands of ophthalmologists as they strive to limit the suffering of persons with vision disabilities and help prevent the loss of sight in significant segments of the population.

Commercial ophthalmic equipment suppliers will be able to deliver high performance systems to the practitioner that deliver real-time, high resolution images for diagnostic purposes and allow prospective patients to preview the results of wavefront-guided custom ablation LASIK surgery. The ophthalmic market for low cost wavefront correction devices, once such devices are available, is projected to be at least $20M per year. Such a chip also has utility outside of ophthalmics. Optical coherence tomography, confocal microscopy, portable military imaging systems, free space optical communication systems, and semiconductor lithography are other potential application areas for wavefront correction devices.


November 17, 2003:   MEMX Receives $100,000 SBIR Phase I Award from the NSF for Research Program to Develop SUMMiT VII, a Seven-Level Surface MEMS Technology  
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded MEMX, Inc. a $100,000 SBIR Phase I research grant to enhance the world’s most sophisticated surface micromachining technology – the SUMMiT V technology developed at Sandia National Laboratories – with an additional structural and interconnect level. The resultant technology, SUMMiT VII, will enable the monolithic fabrication of devices to address the most difficult MEMS product requirements.

The proposed transition to SUMMiT VII mirrors the progression of integrated circuits and printed circuit boards, where the availability of additional vertical levels permitted the design of smaller, cheaper devices with even better performance and functionality. The incremental mechanical sophistication of the new structural level in SUMMiT VII permits design enhancements like flatter mirror surfaces, integrated particle and electrostatic shields, and increased device robustness and reliability. The additional interconnect level permits larger, denser arrays and removes many of the routing constraints inherent in any single level interconnect scheme.

The primary technical challenge associated with the additional polysilicon and oxide levels is the management and mitigation of stress in the films deposited on the wafer. Left unchecked, this stress would lead to excessive wafer bow that could affect the accuracy of subsequent lithography processes or make the wafers impossible to handle with automated equipment. The goal of this research program is to better understand and characterize the stress in the additional SUMMiT levels during the fabrication process. A variety of techniques to mitigate this stress will be analyzed to ensure SUMMiT VII devices can be built reliably.

Emerging MEMS device requirements in fields like adaptive optics and advanced tunable RF devices are starting to exceed the capabilities of even the most sophisticated surface micromachining technologies. SUMMiT VII will not only permit the enhancement of existing MEMS application areas, but it will also enable solutions for product applications where current MEMS technologies simply fall short. SUMMiT VII will enable a world class solution in ophthalmic adaptive optics, a MEMS market estimated at $20M per year. The annual market for high performance tunable capacitors is estimated at $240M, part of a total RF MEMS opportunity which exceeds $1 billion annually.


January 8, 2004:   MEMX Receives $97,000 SBIR Phase I Award from the NIH for Research Program in Ophthalmic Adaptive Optics  
The National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has awarded MEMX, Inc. a $97,000 SBIR Phase I research grant to design and deliver a low cost, MEMS-based wavefront correction device for use in ophthalmic adaptive optics systems. MEMX will leverage the most sophisticated surface micromachining technology available today to design and deliver a MEMS wavefront correction chip that addresses all of the requirements specified by the vision science community. Dr. David Williams from the University of Rochester, a leading vision science researcher and pioneer in ophthalmic adaptive optics, will work alongside the MEMX team during the research program.

The innovative research program employs the world’s most sophisticated surface micromachining technology (SUMMiT V) to bury low voltage electrostatic actuators underneath a multi-level reinforced polysilicon mirror. In traditional segmented arrays, each mirror segment has three actuators to provide full tip, tilt, and piston control of the mirror surface. In such designs, an array with N segments will have 3N actuators to drive those segments. The MEMX scheme to be pursued in this research program is fundamentally different in that N segments can be driven by N actuators, with only a minor reduction in residual wavefront error. We believe the SUMMiT V technology is sophisticated enough to permit us to design and fabricate such an array, and we are eager to investigate this promising path. Reducing the number of actuators is important because it reduces the chip interconnect density and also reduces the off-chip electronics package.

This program will deliver an order of magnitude improvement in the ability to image the retina, and as such will dramatically increase knowledge of retinal structures and performance. Enhanced capabilities in fundus imaging will enable earlier detection of disease, better measurement of treatment effectiveness, and improved treatment techniques for a host of retinal diseases. These improved imaging capabilities will be an invaluable tool in the hands of ophthalmologists as they strive to limit the suffering of persons with vision disabilities and help prevent the loss of sight in significant segments of the population. Commercial ophthalmic equipment suppliers will be able to deliver high performance systems to the practitioner that deliver real-time, high resolution images for diagnostic purposes and allow prospective patients to preview the results of wavefront-guided custom ablation LASIK surgery. The ophthalmic market for low cost wavefront correction devices, once such devices are available, is projected to be at least $20M per year.


About MEMX, Inc.:  
MEMX is a broad-based MEMS company pursuing a variety of high value commercial and government products. MEMX was founded in October 2000 and possesses the world's most advanced MEMS capability. The MEMX technical team spent ten years at Sandia National Laboratories developing and perfecting the revolutionary SUMMiT V MEMS technology. Our business focuses on design, fabrication, packaging, test and qualification of MEMS-based products, and we typically partner with others to integrate the chips into high value systems and products.


Previous News:  
MEMX Receives $100,000 STTR Award from NASA To Develop MEMS Optical Beam Steerers, Dec 2002.
Sandia Spins Off Company to Commercialize Microsystems Technology, Oct 2000.

 
Full Press Release: Jan 2004; Nov 2003; Jun 2003; May 2003
 

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