New RF MEMS metal-contact switches could make their way into MRIs, satellites and electronic instrumentation.
Fig1: Patel, University of California, San Diego.
New RF MEMS metal-contact switches developed at the University of California, San Diego could make their way into MRIs and other medical equipment, satellites, and electronic instrumentation such as spectrum analyzers and signal sources. For his work on RF MEMS metal-contact switches, electrical engineering Ph.D. student Chirag Patel from the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering won the top prize at Research Expo 2011.
The winning switches route electrical signals using electrostatic fields. They are smaller, lighter and more reliable than the current technology known as "conventional electromagnetic relays" – which route electrical signals using current pulses and magnetic fields.
Fig1: New RF MEMS metal-contact switches developed at the University of California, San Diego could make their way into MRIs and other medical equipment, satellites, and electronic instrumentation such as spectrum.
Because satellite systems can be very expensive to put into space, the weight and space savings the new switches provide could lead to large cost savings, explained Patel, winner of the Rudee Outstanding Poster Award at Research Expo 2011. Patel works in the laboratory of Professor Gabriel M. Rebeiz from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.
The new switches also consume less power than conventional electromagnetic relays and could be used in demanding RF environments such as switching networks for automated test equipment, low-power base stations, and even cell phones of the future.
Patel, Rebeiz and their collaborators plan to implement the switch in different high frequency circuit configurations. Other students in the Rebeiz lab are developing different types of RF MEMS switches and tunable circuits.
At the Jacobs School of Engineering, Rebeiz leads a Radio-Frequency Micro-Electro-Mechanical (RF MEMS) / Antennas group for Reconfigurable Radios, and co-leads a microwave/millimeter-wave/THz integrated circuits group for wireless communications and sensors.
At Research Expo 2011, Patel received some unexpected feedback on his work. During the final round of judging, the faculty judge from bioengineering asked Patel what would happen if he put his switch in water. "I thought about it, and I answered the question; but then I asked him why would you want to do that, and he said, 'Well, that would be really useful for us in bioengineering,'" explained Patel, who was surprised that bioengineers would be interested in his work.
We would want to hire you tomorrow if this thing worked in water, the bioengineer said.
Watch a YouTube video of Chirag Patel describing his UC San Diego research: http://www.youtube.com/user/JacobsSchoolNews#p/u/6/r_MJsinIJC0
Read more about Research Expo 2011 at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering: http://www.jacobsschool.ucsd.edu/news/news_releases/release.sfe?id=1064
Search all the Research Expo 2011 abstracts: http://www.jacobsschool.ucsd.edu/re/exhibits.sfe
Research Expo is an annual research event at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. Research Expo includes a graduate student research poster session, in which more than 250 graduate students from all six engineering departments present their latest findings. Search all Research Expo 2011 poster abstracts at: http://www.jacobsschool.ucsd.edu/re/