A*Star, Stanford partner to boost electronics energy efficiency

Singapore's government agency for R&D and Stanford University is working together on nanoelectromechanical system (NEMS) switch tech to improve power performance on devices such as smartphones.

Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) and Stanford University are working together to develop nanoelectromechanical system (NEMS) switch technology to improve energy efficiency in electronic devices such as laptops and smartphones.

NEMS switches are touted to reduce total power consumption of a digital block by up to 10 times.

In a statement Friday, A*Star said its Institute of Microelectronics (IME) will work with the U.S. university to jointly develop NEMS fabrication process and device. The project is split into two phases, with the first phase focusing on demonstrating the reliable operation of the NEMS switch by 2013.

According to A*Star, the use of NEMS switches in electronic devices such as laptops and smartphones can stamp out current leakages that occur during passive standby mode--which is one of the top power guzzlers in devices using traditional semiconductor switches.

By contrast, the use of NEMS switches can reduce the total power consumption of a digital block by up to 10 times, it noted.

Philip Wong, the Willard R. and Inez Kerr Professor in the School of Engineering at Stanford University, said in the statement: "NEMS relay has proven to be an effective complement to conventional Si CMOS technology for reducing power consumption. The collaboration with IME will advance this device technology to a manufacturing process that is suitable for co-integration with Si CMOS in practical applications."

Lee Jae Wung, the IME Scientist leading the project, added: "One of the challenges in building a reliable NEMS switch is in achieving thin film encapsulation to protect the switch structure and the contact materials from degradation and oxidation by providing proper vacuum condition and filling inert gas inside the cavity."

IME's capability in back-end-of-line compatible materials and processes will contribute strongly addressing this challenge, added Lee.