RF MEMS series switch

Uses piezoelectric actuators for improved operational performance

Electronics Sensors

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Army Research Laboratory scientists developed a high-performing RF MEMS series switch that is both easy to manufacture and widely applicable. The patented technology is available via license agreement to companies that would make, use, or sell it commercially.

RF MEMS series switches are used in phase shifters, bandpass filters, antennas, and integrated circuits. (Remaztered Studio via Pixabay)

The most common actuation and sensing technologies used in microelectromechanical system (MEMS) are electrostatic, electrothermal, magnetic, piezoelectric, and piezoresistive technologies. Electrostatic MEMS are the most common due to their simple fabrication and inherent electromechanical capabilities. However, piezoelectric MEMS tend to out-perform them in out-of-plane displacements regarding attainable range, power consumption, and voltage level.

Using piezoelectric thin films in radio frequency (RF) MEMS switch actuators has been explored. Because of the relatively high dielectric constant of the lead zirconate titanate (PZT) actuator, the RF fields can easily couple to the actuator, forming a resonant structure. This type of switch typically performs better than a wide frequency band. The piezoelectric cantilever can be configured perpendicular to a commercial processing workload (CPW) but is fabricated via expensive bulk silicon micromachining. Accordingly, there remains a need for a new RF MEMS switch that is easy to manufacture, applicable to a variety of uses and provides improved operational results.

ARL researchers have developed an RF MEMS series switch and method of fabrication that overcomes the limitations of conventional devices and techniques. This RF MEMS series switch comprises piezoelectric actuators that function as essential RF circuit elements and can be used in larger RF circuits such as phase shifters. The switch can turn RF signals that are propagating along an RF transmission line on and off. The RF MEMS series switch uses a CPW configuration for the transmission line and includes a center RF conductor flanked by two ground planes.

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