STMicroelectronics Set To Spur the Growth of the MEMS Microphone Market

High-performance MEMS microphones enable improved sound quality and additional features at reduced size and cost

GENEVA, Nov. 25 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- STMicroelectronics (NYSE: STM), the leading supplier of MEMS(1) for consumer and portable applications and the third largest MEMS manufacturer overall(2), has expanded its portfolio with next-generation micro-machined acoustic devices. The innovative MEMS microphones that use sensor technology from OMRON(3) will significantly raise the bar in sound quality, reliability, and cost-effectiveness for existing and emerging audio applications like cell phones, wireless devices and games that respond to voice inputs, across a range of market segments.

MEMS microphones have recently emerged to compete with the traditional electret condenser microphones (ECM)(4). Leveraging established high-volume silicon manufacturing processes, micro-machined acoustic devices meet price points set by electret microphones, while boasting superior reliability and robustness. Importantly, MEMS microphones can be made smaller than the most compact ECMs and are less susceptible to mechanical vibration, temperature variations and electromagnetic interference, which is important in cell phones and other devices with an audio input, such as notebook computers, video recorders, digital cameras, as well as hearing aids or electronic stethoscopes.

Addressing widespread user demand for a better audio experience in today's mobile devices, the new high-performance MEMS microphones enable dramatic advancements in sound quality and offer additional features such as noise suppression and directional voice pickup, useful to determine and filter out irrelevant noise. These features, which are valuable with the increasing use of cell phones in noisy and uncontrollable environments and can sensibly improve the quality of mobile conversations and conferencing, can be realized by incorporating multiple MEMS microphones in one device. Such microphone arrays improve noise cancellation and are now made possible with the unique packaging technology(5)( )used for ST's digital MEMS microphones.

ST customers will benefit from the industry-unique capability to manage the whole supply chain and leading-edge MEMS production capacity at ST and OMRON.

"In the past, microphones were the domain of expert acoustics companies, but now it's time for semiconductor MEMS players to drive the growth of this market. We're aiming to increase the size of the MEMS microphone market by an order of magnitude," said Benedetto Vigna, Group Vice President and General Manager of MEMS and Healthcare Division, STMicroelectronics. "This market can explode only with big and long-term committed suppliers, operating their own leading-edge MEMS fabs. Working together with our Japanese friends, we'll drive the microphone market growth as we have done in motion sensors."

"OMRON is ready to support ST in shortening product development cycles and time-to-volume for high-performance, cost-competitive silicon acoustic devices, accelerating the growth of the MEMS market and the development of new application areas such as voice-enabled gaming, automotive voice systems, acoustic sensors for industry and security applications, and medical telemetry," said Yoshio Sekiguchi, General Manager of Micro Devices Division, Micro Devices Business Development H.Q., OMRON Corporation.

Samples of digital MEMS microphones that integrate ST's electronic control circuit and OMRON's micro-machined sensor in a single package will be available before the end of this year, at less than one dollar for large-volume orders. This price is set to catalyze the adoption of MEMS microphones in a wide range of existing and emerging audio applications in the consumer, automotive, industrial and medical segments.

According to iSuppli's research dated September 2009, the market for micro-machined acoustic devices for consumer electronics and mobile handsets is forecast to grow at a revenue CAGR of 18% between 2008 and 2013, when it will exceed one billion parts per year.

About STMicroelectronics

STMicroelectronics is a global leader serving customers across the spectrum of electronics applications with innovative semiconductor solutions. ST aims to be the undisputed leader in multimedia convergence and power applications leveraging its vast array of technologies, design expertise and combination of intellectual property portfolio, strategic partnerships and manufacturing strength. In 2008, the Company's net revenues were $9.84 billion. Further information on ST can be found at www.st.com.

Notes to Editors

(1) MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) technology exploits the mechanical, as well as electrical, properties of silicon. In conventional silicon chips, electrons move within the static silicon. However, silicon also has several unique mechanical properties: it is stronger than steel yet has a high elasticity. As important to exploiting silicon's mechanical properties, the techniques that are used to build silicon transistors can also be adapted to build microscopic silicon structures such as cantilevers, springs and even gears that are capable of physical movement, which is not traditional in strictly semiconductor technology. Using a diaphragm-like structure, a semiconductor device, like ST's MEMS microphone, can capture and convert the small changes in air pressure into electronic signals that can ultimately be processed to eliminate noise and reconverted to sound waves by a loudspeaker.

(2) According to iSuppli (Jun 2009) and Yole Developpement (Mar 2009).

(3) OMRON is a strong player in MEMS sensor technology with over twenty years of research, development and manufacturing experience in the healthcare and industrial markets. Headquartered in Kyoto, Japan, OMRON Corporation has over 35,000 employees in 38 countries working to provide products and services to customers in a variety of fields, including industrial automation, electronic components, social systems (ticket gate machines, ticket vending machines and traffic control) and healthcare. For more information, visit OMRON's website at http://www.omron.com.

(4) Electret Condenser Microphone (ECM) is a common type of microphone (acoustic-wave to electric-current converter), in which sound waves cause a charged diaphragm to vibrate. The diaphragm is one plate of a parallel-plate capacitor and its vibration produces changes in the voltage across the plates, creating a signal that can be stored for manipulation and conversion back into an acoustic wave, This acoustic wave approximates the input sound, depending upon the quality of the microphone, the kind of manipulation done to the electronic signal, and the loudspeaker through which it is played.

(5) ST is the only manufacturer that can mount and package multiple MEMS microphone devices at a time, facilitating high-volume production, using a proven packaging technology very similar to that used for motion sensors. ST's MEMS microphone packages also have flexibility in the location of the acoustic port hole (top or bottom) that enables sound to reach the vibrating or resonating element inside the device.

Web site: http://www.st.com/




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