Radio-frequency (RF) integrated circuits are used for wireless communications and require transformers capable of transferring electrical energy at RF/microwave frequencies. Traditional on-chip RF transformer designs have complex fabrication schemes and offer limited performance scalability. Here we report on-chip RF/microwave transformers that are based on a self-rolled-up membrane platform. The monolithic nature and versatility of this platform allows us to create high-performance transformers while maintaining an ultra-compact device footprint and by using only planar processing. We also show that the performance of the three-dimensional RF transformers improves with scaling, which is in contrast to conventional planar designs. In particular, we observe a continuous rate of increase in the index of performance of our RF transformers as we scale up the turns ratio. This behaviour is attributed to the almost ideal mutual magnetic coupling inherent to the self-rolled-up membrane three-dimensional architecture.
This is a preview of subscription content
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $8.25 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Osseiran, A., Elloumi, O., Song, J. & Monserrat, J. F. Internet of Things. IEEE Commun. Stand. Mag. 1, 84 (2017).
Perkel, J. M. The Internet of Things comes to the lab. Nat. News 542, 125 (2017).
Bubnova, O. Wearable electronics: stretching the limits. Nat. Nanotech. 12, 101 (2017).
Leite, B., Kerherve, E., Begueret, J. B. & Belot, D. An analytical broadband model for millimeter-wave transformers in silicon technologies. IEEE Trans. Electron. Devices 59, 582–589 (2012).
Chen, Y.-M., Liu, Y.-C. & Wu, F.-Y. Multi-input DC/DC converter based on the multiwinding transformer for renewable energy applications. IEEE Trans. Ind. Appl. 38, 1096–1104 (2002).
Huang, Q. A., Dong, L. & Wang, L. F. LC passive wireless sensors toward a wireless sensing platform: status, prospects, and challenges. J. Micro. Syst. 25, 822–841 (2016).
Ganji, B. A. & Molanzadeh, M. High performance planar micro-transformer using novel crossover connection. Microsyst. Technol. 23, 4413–4418 (2017).
Luong, H. C. & Yin, J. Transformer-Based Design Techniques for Oscillators and Frequency Dividers (Springer, Berlin, 2015).
Ng, K. T., Rejaei, B. & Burghartz, J. N. Substrate effects in monolithic RF transformers on silicon. IEEE Trans. Microw. Theory Tech. 50, 377–383 (2002).
Chong, K. & Xie, Y.-H. High-performance on-chip transformers. IEEE Electron. Device Lett. 26, 557–559 (2005).
Niknejad, A. M. & Meyer, R. G. Analysis of eddy-current losses over conductive substrates with applications to monolithic inductors and transformers. IEEE Trans. Microw. Theory Tech. 49, 166–176 (2001).
Zhan, Y., Mei, Y. & Zheng, L. Materials capability and device performance in flexible electronics for the Internet of Things. J. Mater. Chem. C 2, 1220–1232 (2014).
Hsu, H. M., Lai, S. H. & Hsu, C. J. Compact layout of on-chip transformer. IEEE Trans. Electron. Devices 57, 1076–1083 (2010).
Cho, E., Lee, S., Lee, J. & Nam, S. A high-efficient transformer using bond wires for Si RF IC. IEICE Trans. Electron. E93–C, 140–141 (2010).
Hsu, H. M. & Chien, C. T. Multiple turn ratios of on-chip transformer with four intertwining coils. IEEE Trans. Electron. Devices 61, 44–47 (2014).
Hsu, H. M. & Chen, K. Y. High turn ratio and high coupling coefficient transformer in 90-nm CMOS technology. IEEE Electron. Device Lett. 30, 535–537 (2009).
Choi, Y.-S., Yoon, J.-B., Kim, B.-I. & Yoon, E. in Technical Digest MEMS 2002 IEEE International Conference 653–656 (IEEE, 2002).
Macrelli, E. et al. Modeling, design, and fabrication of high-inductance bond wire microtransformers with toroidal ferrite core. IEEE Trans. Power Electron. 30, 5724–5737 (2015).
Moazenzadeh, A., Sandoval, F. S., Spengler, N., Badilita, V. & Wallrabe, U. 3D microtransformers for DC–DC on-chip power conversion. IEEE Trans. Power Electron. 30, 5088–5102 (2015).
Macrelli, E. et al. Design and fabrication of a 315 μH bondwire micro-transformer for ultra-low voltage energy harvesting. 2014 Design, Automation & Test in Europe Conference Exhibition (DATE) 1–4 (IEEE, 2014).
Macrelli, E. et al. Design and fabrication of a 29 μH bondwire micro-transformer with LTCC magnetic core on silicon for energy harvesting applications. Procedia Eng. 87, 1557–1560 (2014).
Schmidt, O. G., Schmarje, N., Deneke, C., Müller, C. & Jin-Phillipp, N.-Y. Three-dimensional nano-objects evolving from a two-dimensional layer technology. Adv. Mater. 13, 756–759 (2001).
Tian, Z., Li, F., Mi, Z. & Plant, D. V. Controlled transfer of single rolled-up InGaAs/GaAs quantum-dot microtube ring resonators using optical fiber abrupt tapers. IEEE Photon. Technol. Lett. 22, 311–313 (2010).
Huang, G. et al. Rolled-up optical microcavities with subwavelength wall thicknesses for enhanced liquid sensing applications. ACS Nano 4, 3123–3130 (2010).
Tang, S., Fang, Y., Liu, Z., Zhou, L. & Mei, Y. Tubular optical microcavities of indefinite medium for sensitive liquid refractometers. Lab. Chip 16, 182–187 (2015).
Huang, W. et al. On-chip inductors with self-rolled-up SiNx nanomembrane tubes: a novel design platform for extreme miniaÿturization. Nano Lett. 12, 6283–6288 2012).
Yu, X. et al. Ultra-small, high-frequency, and substrate-immune microtube inductors transformed from 2D to 3D. Sci. Rep. 5, 9661 (2015).
Froeter, P. et al. Toward intelligent synthetic neural circuits: directing and accelerating neuron cell growth by self-rolled-up silicon nitride microtube array. ACS Nano 8, 11108–11117 (2014).
Li, X. Strain induced semiconductor nanotubes: from formation process to device applications. J. Phys. Appl. Phys. 41, 193001 (2008).
Li, X. Self-rolled-up microtube ring resonators: a review of geometrical and resonant properties. Adv. Opt. Photon. 3, 366–387 (2011).
Froeter, P. et al. 3D hierarchical architectures based on self-rolled-up silicon nitride membranes. Nanotechnology 24, 475301 (2013).
Tian, Z. et al. Deterministic self-rolling of ultrathin nanocrystalline diamond nanomembranes for 3D tubular/helical architecture. Adv. Mater. 29, 1604572 (2017).
Huang, W., Koric, S., Yu, X., Hsia, K. J. & Li, X. Precision structural engineering of self-rolled-up 3D nanomembranes guided by transient quasi-static FEM modeling. Nano Lett. 14, 6293–6297 (2014).
Chun, I., Challa, A., Derickson, B., Hisa, J. & Li, X. Geometry effect on the strain-induced self-rolling of semiconductor membranes. Nano Lett. 10, 3927–3932 (2010).
Zhang, Y. et al. Printing, folding and assembly methods for forming 3D mesostructures in advanced materials. Nat. Rev. Mater. 2, 17019 (2017).
Huang, W. et al. in 2017 IEEE MTT-S International Microwave Symposium (IMS) 1645–1648 (IEEE, 2017).
Huang, W., Li, M., Gong, S. & Li, X. RFIC transformer with 12x size reduction and 15x performance enhancement by self-rolled-up membrane nanotechnology. 2015 ASME International Technical Conference and Exhibition on Packaging and Integration of Electronic and Photonic Microsystems https://doi.org/10.1115/IPACK2015-48585 (ASME, 2015).
Huang, W., Li, M., Gong, S. & Li, X. in 2015 73rd Annual Device Research Conference (DRC) 223–224 (IEEE, 2015).
Huang, W. et al. in 2013 71st Annual Device Research Conference (DRC) 227–228 (IEEE, 2013).
Hsieh, M. C., Jair, D. K. & Lin, C. S. Design and fabrication of the suspended high-Q spiral inductors with X-beams. Microsyst. Technol. 14, 903–907 (2008).
Tiemeijer, L. F., Pijper, R. M. T., Andrei, C. & Grenados, E. Analysis, design, modeling, and characterization of low-loss scalable on-chip transformers. IEEE Trans. Microw. Theory Tech. 61, 2545–2557 (2013).
Shi, J., Xiong, Y. Z., Brinkhoff, J., Issaoun, A. & Lin, F. Resistive coupling efficiency criterion for evaluating substrate shielding structures of transformers. IEEE Electron. Device Lett. 29, 114–117 (2008).
Niknejad, A. M. Analysis, Simulation, and Applications of Passive Devices on Conductive Substrates, PhD thesis, Univ. California, Berkeley (2000).
Mayevskiy, Y., Watson, A., Francis, P., Hwang, K. & Weisshaar, A. A new compact model for monolithic transformers in silicon-based RFICs. IEEE Microw. Wireless Compon. Lett. 15, 419–421 (2005).
El-Gharniti, O., Kerherve, E. & Begueret, J. B. Modeling and characterization of on-chip transformers for silicon RFIC. IEEE Trans. Microw. Theory Tech. 55, 607–615 (2007).
The authors acknowledge support from the US Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences (BES) under award no. DEFG02-07ER46471 (materials development), and the National Science Foundation under awards EEC 1449548 (device design, model and electrical testing), ECCS 1309375 (fabrication process development) and IIP 17-01047 (yield optimization).
The authors declare no competing interests.
Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Huang, W., Zhou, J., Froeter, P.J. et al. Three-dimensional radio-frequency transformers based on a self-rolled-up membrane platform. Nat Electron 1, 305–313 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41928-018-0073-5
Microsystems & Nanoengineering (2021)
Nature Communications (2020)
NPG Asia Materials (2019)
Microdroplet-guided intercalation and deterministic delamination towards intelligent rolling origami
Nature Communications (2019)
Nature Communications (2019)