After getting its start in ink-jet printer heads, motion sensors for consumer electronics has become the sweet spot for MEMS. Today the mobile phone market -- with more than 6 billion subscriptions and counting -- is the main target of many MEMS manufacturers.
Most of the current MEMS chips in consumer electronics are inertial sensors -- accelerometers for sensing orientation, gyroscopes for sensing fine movements, and magnetometers for sensing heading -- but now MEMS chips are starting to take over radio-frequency (RF) functions, too.
WiSpry Inc. of Irvine, Calif., was the first to market MEMS RF antenna tuning components to mobile phone makers -- using IBM Microelectronics as its foundry partner -- but in 2013 a new competitor entered the fray. Cavendish Kinetics B.V. of the Netherlands unveiled its adaptive tuning chips this year, claiming it can adaptively tune LTE antennas to prevent dropped calls.
The tunable capacitor arrays in these MEMS chips from WiSpry and Cavendish Kinetics will eventually perform, not just adaptive antenna impedance matching, but also frequency-tuning, filter-tuning, and power-amp-load tuning.
Cavendish Kinetics can make the entire radio frequency (RF) front-end module (FEM) tunable, with customers tackling antenna tuning and impedance matching in 2013, with tunable power-amp loading to appear in 2014 and tunable filters and duplexers due out in 2015-16.