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Piezoelectric MEMS Microphones, Speakers, and High Temperature Sensors

Organization:MonoDrive, Inc., MonoDrive, Inc., US
I.P. Brief:Our IP represents four main complementary components: (i) base sensor/actuator architectures, (ii) an advantageous piezoelectric material system, (iii) proven, commercially viable MEMS processing techniques, and (iii) application specific design elements that create stand-alone and potentially integrated speakers and microphones for consumer electronic (CE) applications, and pressure sensors.
Summary of I.P.:MonoDrive has patented or filed IP in the four complementary arenas listed above to protect its proprietary technology for high sensitivity MEMS microphones, high specific output micro-speakers, and high temperature pressure sensors. MonoDrive has demonstrated the feasibility and physics of the technology through commercial MEMS foundry prototyping, validated the advantages of the technology over competitive solutions, and aggressively pursued IP protection of key enabling concepts. For microphones, the key advantages include (i) passive architecture that does not require a charge pump; (ii) pin-to-pin replacement of today’s condenser microphones; (iii) lower inherent noise floor than competitive MEMS microphones; (iv) low voltage [<1.5V] passive architecture; (v) clear on-chip integration path; and (vi) the only MEMS microphone approach that can be leveraged for Micro-speakers. Micro-speaker advantages include (i) single diaphragm architecture enables large diaphragm excursion compared to capacitive designs (better SPL and no risk of stiction between diaphragms); (ii) processing simplicity; (iii) essentially no EMI/RFI susceptibility since non-magnetic; and (iv) broader frequency response including (v) better low frequency response. The piezoelectric material demonstrated in MonoDrive prototyping activities retains its sensor and actuator properties to 750 degrees C.
Patent:6,965,189, 20050194869, 20040056567
Keywords:microspeaker, microphone, high temperature sensors, piezoelectric, pressure sensors, actuator, MEMS
Primary Industry:Telecommunications
Specific Market:Mobile phone acoustic speakers, microphones, and high-temperature pressure sensors.
Market Size:Target markets include the ~1.5 billion unit/year microphone market for telecommunication and CE devices, and the ~1 billion unit/year microspeaker market. Leveraging the processing and architecture commercialization investment, products can be created
State of the Art:For acoustic components the state of the art is non-MEMS electret condenser microphones, with MEMS capacitive microphones just entering the market. The micro-speaker market is dominated by traditional non-MEMS voice coil electromagnetic speaker components. High temperature sensors are an emerging market arena with applications needing technology solutions.
Competition:Capacitive MEMS microphones are entering the market today. No emerging threats exist for micro-speakers. Capacitive MEMS speaker designs face basic design challenges. For high temperature applications, SiC-based pressure sensor are useful up to 500 degrees C, but the architecture described herein is potentially useful to 750 degrees C.
Figures of Merit:Figures of merit include: (i) designs of components meet existing CE application specifications for sensitivity and output; (ii) piezoelectric MEMS leverages existence of a novel sputtered piezoelectric system that is shipping commercial product to mobile phones today; (iii) investment in process can yield microphones, speakers, and pressure sensors.
Tech.  Obstacles:The technical obstacles in the path towards commercialization include: (i) process optimization of an existing commercial piezoelectric MEMS process for the specifics of MonoDrive architecture; (ii) development of packaging that complements the simplicity and cost-effectiveness of MonoDrive component design.
Market Obstacles:The viability of MEMS implementations of acoustic elements for CE applications has been demonstrated through the introduction and adoption of MEMS microphones within the CE marketplace. The microphone and micro-speaker markets for telecommunication devices and consumer electronics applications are highly competitive markets that demand supplier scale to ensure adequate supply to OEM product manufacturers. MonoDrive is seeking a licensing partner with the scale, market experience, and customer relationships to rapidly exploit the technological advantages of this IP in a dynamic, growing market. High value applications such as high temperature pressure sensors would benefit from licensing of MonoDrive IP to entities with the complementary application knowledge, electronics and packaging expertise to enable more rapid commercialization of this technology.
Patent Landscape:Issued US patent is complemented by the two listed pending applications, and international pending applications for Germany, France, Great Britain, Korea and Japan. In addition MonoDrive has filed an unpublished patent critical to ensuring high sensitivity of acoustic or other piezoelectric sensors. This portfolio of filings is complemented by 15 attorney filed disclosures pertaining to applications, processing and packaging.
Publications:To protect the early IP MonoDrive has not submitted publications on the MEMS microphone and speaker technology represented by this IP. An article published on February 27, 2006 in EE Times discussed the evolution of the MEMS microphone market, and quoted various sources that put sales of MEMS microphones at 82 million in 2005, growing to approximately 800 million by 2010, and reaching the billion unit mark in the next decade (for reference please see http://www.eetimes.com/issue/fp/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=180207742&pgno=1). Similar reports predict strong growth in the CE market for microspeakers as MEMS technology matures to capture share in this valuable adjacent marketplace.
Research Team:Christoph Menzel – CTO: 20+ year MEMS background in commercial accelerometers, piezoelectric MEMS & sensors. Scott Rader, PhD – VP Marketing: 18+ year medical device career including piezoelectric acoustic transducer design for hearing systems. Mhamed Ibnabdeljalil, PhD – CEO: engineering and marketing expertise ranging from silicon packaging to DSP hearing processors.

 

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