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Sep 4th, 2013
 
Sand 9 MEMS cracks cell phone market
 
Market leader shares its insights on the next big market for MEMS at Taiwan’s premier technology event.
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Micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) chip maker Sand 9 Inc. (Cambridge, Mass.) claims to have finally cracked the multibillion unit mobile phone and Internet of Things market with a piezo-electric design that provides the performance lacking in traditional MEMS timing chips. More than five years in the making, Sand 9 has finally announced its first piezo-electric timing chips, for which it already has mobile phone customers lined up.

"We started from the mobile market and its requirements, and worked our way backwards to find out that our MEMS chips needed to be piezoelectric," said senior director of marketing Todd Borkowski in an interview with EE Times.

The key to its success in cracking the mobile phone market, Sand 9 claims, is its piezo-electric materials that give its MEMS timing chips better electro-mechanical coupling than conventional electro-static capacitive designs, resulting in ultra-stable higher-frequency operation in a tiny size and with low-power requirements.

"The piezoelectric MEMS technology we invented has 100 times better electro-mechanical coupling than electro-static," said Borkowski. "Basically it gets us the performance we need in a small size and at power-consumption levels on par with quartz."

From its founding in 2007 as a Boston University spin-off by co-founders Pritiraj Mohanty (co-founder and inventor of its MEMS technology) and Matt Crowley (vice president of business development) Sand 9's aim has been to produce timing chips that offered a better price/performance ratio than quartz in the core markets for cellular phones and the high-speed communications chips inside Internet of Things devices.

"These are the very first MEMS timing devices in the world capable of accurately clocking what people refer to as the Internet of Things devices as well as high-speed transceivers and conductivity ICs," said Borkowski.

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