MEMX Inc. is a new company formed to commercialize microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). The company will initially focus on producing optical switches for the telecommunications industry using SUMMiT V, a five-layer polysilicon surface-micromachining technology. "Optical switching applications are a driving force in MEMS," says Paul McWhorter, one of the company founders. "The technology is ideal for meeting today's requirements for high-performance optical switches," he says. He notes that significant progress has been made in increasing the amount of data that can be pushed down a fiber, but optical switches present the speed bumps on the information superhighway. Converting optical signals to electric signals and then converting them back to optical signals traditionally does the switching. However, the fundamental limitation with this technique is that today's electronic switches destroy the wide bandwidth advantage of optical fiber. Optical switches eliminate this problem. "Standard switches used in fiber optics can cost up to $1,000 per channel.
If you use 1,000 channels, the cost is a million dollars. Using MEMs technology, you can put 1,000 mirrors on one chip, which can be built for just a few dollars," he says. For more information, contact McWhorter at (505) 858-1062.