The news website of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has posted an article about the nanoscale memristive radiofrequency switches developed by two of DARPA’s Young Faculty Award (YFA) recipients, Qiangfei Xia and Joseph Bardin, both assistant professors from our Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. The DARPA story is entitled “New Nanoscale Programmable Switches Promise Faster, More Versatile Chip-scale Devices.”
As the DARPA article explained, “By combining complementary mindsets on the leading edges of electronic and radiofrequency device engineering, a pair of researchers in DARPA’s Young Faculty Award program has devised ultra-tiny, electronic switches with reprogrammable features resembling those at play in inter-neuron communication. These highly adaptable nanoscale switches can toggle on and off so fast, and with such low loss, they could become the basis of not only computer and memory devices but also multi-function radiofrequency (RF) chips, which users might reprogram on the fly to behave first like a cell-phone’s signal emitter but then, say, as a collision-avoidance radar component or a local radio jammer.”
The DARPA article added that Bardin (in the YFA program since 2011) brought to the duo expertise in reconfigurable RF integrated circuits, while Xia (in the YFA program since 2012) contributed prowess in the design and fabrication of nanoscale memristor devices.
The DARPA article noted that “Inspired by discussions with their YFA mentor—DARPA’s Microsystems Technology Office Director Bill Chappell—Xia and Bardin combined their strengths to devise what they describe in a recent Nature Communications article as ‘nanoscale memristive radiofrequency switches.’”
The College of Engineering reported on the prestigious Nature Communications publication in June of 2015: UMass Electrical Engineers Develop Memristive RF Switches. The title of that Nature Communications article was “Nanoscale Memristive Radiofrequency Switches,” and the authors were Shuang Pi, Mohammad Ghadiri-Sadrabadi, Bardin, and Xia.
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.
Xia and Bardin used their individual specializations 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.