RF MEMS Switches: High-Frequency Performance and Hot-Switching Reliability

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  • Author: Tai Wen Jau
Micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) technology is an evolving technology that allows device fabrication using components at a submillimeter scale (1 to 100 micrometers). A wide variety of MEMS devices is available, including sensors, actuators and switches. An RF MEMS switch is a specific type of MEMS-based device that can provide switching capability at RF (radio frequency) or even microwave frequencies. MEMS switches offer several advantages that make them an attractive alternative to conventional devices like mechanical relays and solid-state devices (PIN or FET switches): low insertion loss, high isolation, low power consumption, extreme linearity and the ability to be integrated with other electronics [1]. While the advantages are numerous, the long-term reliability of MEMS switches is relatively weak, especially when switching in the presence of input signals (hot-switching). In this paper we investigate RF MEMS switch performance and reliability issues by focusing on an off-the-shelf, ohmic-contact-based, single-pole-double-throw (SPDT) MEMS switch that is currently available. A comparison of MEMS relays (MMR) and other solid-state devices and electro-mechanical relays (EMR) is shown in Table 1 [2].