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UMass Electrical Engineers Develop Memristive RF Switches

Qiangfei Xia

Qiangfei Xia

Joseph Bardin

Joseph Bardin

Cutting-edge collaborative work between the research teams of Professors Qiangfei Xia (PI) and Joseph Bardin, both with Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at UMass Amherst, has resulted in a publication in Nature Communications. The title of the article is “Nanoscale Memristive Radiofrequency Switches,” and the authors are Shuang Pi, Mohammad Ghadiri-Sadrabadi, Joseph Bardin, and Qiangfei Xia. The original article can be viewed here.

Nature Communications is a multidisciplinary journal dedicated to publishing high-quality research in all areas of the biological, physical, chemical and, earth sciences. Papers published by the journal represent important advances of significance to specialists within each field.

Radio frequency (RF) switches are critical components in wireless communication systems and consumer electronics. Emerging RF devices include switches based upon micro-electromechanical systems and phase change materials. However, these devices suffer from disadvantages such as large physical dimensions and high actuation voltages.

In the reported work, Xia’s expertise in the design and fabrication of nanoscale memristive switching devices was combined with Bardin’s expertise in RF devices to devise and demonstrate a new type of RF switch that does not suffer from the aforementioned limitations. 

Memristive devices are resistance switches whose internal states are determined by the history of applied voltage and/or current. Switching is typically related to the formation/rupture of one or more conductive filaments through either electrochemical reactions or the migration of mobile ions that modulate the interfacial properties. Because of a number of attractive features (such as non-volatility, low switching energy, fast switching speed, high endurance, excellent scalability, and CMOS compatibility), memristive devices are currently pursued by both industry and academia for applications in the next generation non-volatile memory and unconventional computing.

As the Nature Communications article reports, the UMass team has proposed and demonstrated a nanoscale RF switch based on a memristive device, which suggests that “in addition to their application in memory and computing, memristive devices are also a leading contender for radio frequency switch applications.”

The article adds that “The device can be programmed with a voltage as low as 0.4 V and has an ON/OFF conductance ratio up to 1012 with long state retention.”  

The article explains that he researchers measured “the radiofrequency performance of the switch up to 110 GHz and demonstrated low insertion loss (0.3 dB at 40 GHz), high isolation (30 dB at 40 GHz), an average cutoff frequency of 35 THz, and competitive linearity and power handling capability.”

Despite the fact that these new RF switches are of nanoscale physical dimensions, their RF performance is comparable to that of the best competing technologies.

While further research is required to improve the reliability of this technology to the level required for wide-spread adoption, their nanoscale dimensions and CMOS compatibility has the potential to enable a new generation of RF CMOS circuits with unprecedented reconfigurability.

(June 2015)