Analog Devices' new RF-MEMS switch technology promises to enable faster, smaller, low power and more reliable instrumentation equipment by resolving multiple performance limitations commonly attributed to relays, whose origins date to the earliest days of the electric telegraph.

With the commercial release of products enabled by the technology, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) can improve the accuracy and versatility of automatic test equipment (ATE) and other instrumentation tools. Future products within the MEMS switch series will replace relays in aerospace and defence, healthcare, and communications infrastructure equipment.

The first in a new product series, ADI’s ADGM1304 and ADGM1004 RF MEMS switches are 95% smaller, 30 times faster, 10 times more reliable and use 10 times less power than conventional electromechanical relays.

Compared to other switch alternatives such as solid-state relays, the ADGM1304 and ADGM1004 MEMS switches have superior precision and RF performance from 0Hz (DC) to 14GHz. ADI’s MEMS switch solution contains two die to maximise operational performance—an electrostatically actuated switch in a hermetically sealed silicon cap and a low-voltage, low-current driver IC. The switching element has a highly conditioned, extremely reliable metal-to-metal contact that is actuated via an electrostatic force generated by the companion driver IC. The resultant co-packaged solution ensures DC precision and RF performance and makes the switch extremely easy to use.

The ADGM1304 and ADGM1004 also increase cold-switching lifetime by a factor of 10 compared to electromechanical relays, extending ATE system operating life and reducing costly downtime caused by relay failures. Additionally, the extremely small height of the ADGM1304 and ADGM1004 MEMS switch packages allow designers to surface-mount the devices on both sides of their ATE test boards to boost channel densities at reduced cost and without expanding equipment footprint. An integrated charge pump removes the need for external drivers, further reducing ATE system size, while a multiplexer configuration simplifies the fan-out structure compared to DPDT relay designs.