Menlo Micro RF switch delivers 10,000x improvement in IP3 linearity

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Menlo Microsystems has announced a significant performance milestone that could help to drive breakthrough improvements in RF signal performance across multiple industries.

According to Menlo Micro characterization tests, the new MM5130 Ideal Switch product, released to production last year and now shipping in volume, has been able to achieve an IP3 linearity of greater than 95 dBm, enabling significant reductions in distortion for RF systems.

Intermodulation distortion is a key industry metric in determining the linearity of an electronic switch. The third-order intercept (IP3) is the extrapolated point where the ideal linear performance converges with actual third-order distortion products generated by the nonlinearities inherent in the switch. This figure of merit is critical in determining how much distortion a switch or other component will introduce into an RF system, which will ultimately impact the quality of the transmitted or received signal.

The MM5130 switch’s 95 dBm IP3 level delivers up to a 10,000x improvement (about 20 dB to 40 dB) over existing RF electromechanical relays and solid-state switches. This ultra-high IP3 metric is traditionally seen in only the highest performing RF mechanical switches and relays. When compared to solid-state devices, this level of IP3 is also difficult to achieve from currently available semiconductor processes on the market. Enhanced IP3 performance results in size, weight, power and cost (SWaP-C) improvements as power amplifiers and other RF components in the chain can be scaled back in power and reduced in size, ultimately enhancing overall system performance.

As a consequence, these improvements make the MM5130 switch a very attractive solution for advanced RF systems including low-loss switched filter banks, tunable filters, step attenuators, RF and microwave switching in radio front-ends, and phase shifters for beam steering and phased array antennas used in 5G networks. The high linearity also makes the MM5130 suitable for ultra-compact switch matrices and RF test and measurement applications.

“Menlo Micro continues to innovate and deliver performance gains that were once thought impossible with conventional electromechanical and solid-state technologies,” said Chris Giovanniello, co-founder, SVP marketing, Menlo Micro. “The electrification of everything and wireless proliferation call for the reinvention of a fundamental electronics industry building block: the RF switch. The MM5130 addresses this challenge. Its exceptional level of IP3 linearity will vastly improve the quality of service and signal performance for a multitude of RF front-end systems in demanding applications.”

Menlo Micro is currently engaging with 5G infrastructure manufacturers looking for IP3 linearities greater than 90 dBm which are difficult to achieve even with the most advanced high-power switch technologies. Similar IP3 requirements are in high demand for emerging military communications systems, and Menlo Micro is currently working with aerospace and defence customers to design in the MM5130 for advanced radios and other critical electronic systems.

The MM5130 switch outperforms electromechanical RF relays across all application-critical metrics and offers the size, reliability and speed benefits of a solid-state switch. The highest density SP4T switch on the market, the MM5130 is designed to handle power levels of up to 25W (CW) while operating across a frequency range from DC up to 26 GHz with an insertion loss of 1.3 dB at 18 GHz and switching speeds less than 10 µs.

To date, Menlo Micro has reported more than 30 committed global design wins and last year transferred the MM5130 switch from a 4-inch research fab to a new 8-inch high-volume manufacturing line and is now starting to ramp up MM5130 production while significantly increasing capacity of millions of units per month.