SiTime is now shipping MEMS resonators that replace 32 kHz quartz tuning forks. This is a huge deal and will change how we all keep track of time.

Clocks for timekeeping are among the most technologically advanced machines people build. Over the centuries we have pushed our engineering limits to achieve ever more accurate and smaller clocks. In each generation our clock’s core technologies were their resonators; initially pendulums (Huygens 1656), then torsional balance wheel (Harrison 1761), then quartz crystals (popularized in the ‘70’s). As each new resonator was developed it revolutionized time keeping. The pendulum was vastly more accurate than previous technologies and enabled the first true timekeeping. The torsional balance wheel was more accurate than the pendulum and enabled watches and navigation clocks. The quartz crystal of course was electromechanical and enabled electronic timekeeping.

Forty years ago quartz resonators were miniaturized sufficiently for consumer applications, and quartz tuning forks replaced virtually all pendulum and torsional balance wheel clocks. Wall clocks and wristwatches nearly all converted to quartz. Computers, phones, and appliances need quartz resonators. Quartz tuning forks are now used to keep track of time in every application. Billions of these tuning forks are made each year. The primary drivers are size, accuracy, reliability, cost, and PCB-level integration.

Now SiTime has launched another revolution in clocks – and again it is underpinned by a resonator development. We are now replacing quartz oscillators with silicon for timekeeping applications. Our new resonators are ten times smaller, more accurate, more reliable, and lower cost. For battery powered applications the timing circuits must operate with very little power. SiTime’s Si1052 is the world’s first and only production ultra-low power MEMS resonator. It can be driven, compensated, and operated with less than one microwatt of supply power; that is ten thousand times less power than a butterfly needs to flap its wings.

But most important, the SiTime resonator is a small silicon die that can be handled like any other silicon die, it can be diced, placed, and molded with its CMOS driver circuits. This can not be done with quartz. The result is that timing will now be fully integrated into packages with other circuits, this will eliminate quartz crystal tuning forks, giving improved accuracy and save valuable space on circuit boards.

Learn more about SiTime Mems Oscillator

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