[time-nuts] Helium and MEMS oscillators don;t mix well

Bob kb8tq kb8tq at n1k.org
Thu Nov 1 13:57:07 EDT 2018


Hi

Helium leak testing is a *very* common thing in the oscillator industry. I’d bet it also is done in the 
MEMS oscillator business as well. A normal oscillator can fail leak testing. I’ve never seen one that 
stoped working as a result of the test. 

Bob

> On Nov 1, 2018, at 12:14 PM, jimlux <jimlux at earthlink.net> wrote:
> 
> On 11/1/18 8:47 AM, Bob kb8tq wrote:
>> Hi
>> A lot of Radon and *really* poor ventilation….
>> There are a lot of ways for He to show up. In normal use, issue is hanging on to it.
>> It tends to run away from its source very quickly. Maintaining a measurable concentration
>> in something like a normal room …. not very easy at all.
>> Bob
> 
> 
> a couple interesting things to think about (I personally think the original story has some other confounding factor they forgot):
> 
> 1) MEMS pressure sensors have been around for decades, and they're used with helium all the time.
> 2) MEMS accelerometers (which have moving parts, vs the pressure sensor) have also been around for a long time.  I've not checked, but I'll bet some are in hermetic packages which get He leak tested.  If there was a Helium problem, you'd have heard about it.
> 3) There *are* stories about trace contaminants affecting the performance of MEMS RF switches, specifically water vapor - it affects the stiction of the moving contacts.
> 4) What is the proposed mechanism for Helium affecting the oscillator?
> 
> 
> Here's an article from 2006 discussing SiTime's stuff
> https://www.rdmag.com/article/2006/04/new-paradigm-time-silicon-mems-resonators-vs-quartz-crystals
> 
> They discuss how hydrogen diffuses *out* of the area where the resonator is.
> 
> Now, it's possible that in the interests of saving fractions of a penny, Apple is using resonators that aren't packaged as well as the SiTime units (which are awfully cheap). (although the news stories say Apple is using SiTime's parts)
> 
> "Apparently, SiTime also is aware of this problem and says its newer devices are “impervious to all small-molecule gasses.” But they admit older parts were not immune."  I'd be interested in the context for that quote.
> 
> off SiTime's FAQ page:
> How effective is the hermetic seal of MEMS oscillators??
> One of the key elements enabling extremely stable MEMS resonators is SiTime’s EpiSeal™ process which hermetically seals the resonators during wafer processing, eliminating any need for hermetically sealed ceramic packaging. SiTime’s EpiSeal resonator is impervious to the highest concentration elements in the atmosphere, nitrogen and oxygen, and therefore acts as a perfect seal. Previous generations of EpiSeal resonators may have been impacted by large concentrations of small-molecule gas. Newer EpiSeal resonators are impervious to all small-molecule gases. Please contact SiTime in case you are planning to use a SiTime device in large concentrations of small-molecule gas, so that we can recommend an appropriate, immune part.
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> http://memtronics.com/files/Zero%20Level%20Packaging%20for%20RF%20MEMS%20Switches%20v7.pdf
> 
> 
> 
> ANother paper on packaging
> 
> https://file.scirp.org/pdf/JST_2013122009560886.pdf
> 
> 
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