JAN 07, 2019 9:00 AM PST

More Durable Cell Phones

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

Scientists have developed a new type of microelectromechanical system (MEMS switch) that can make cell phones and power lines more durable. The new MEMS switch uses a force known as electrostatic levitation which provides a more robust system.

Learn more about MEMS switch technology:

"All cell phones use MEMS switches for wireless communication, but traditionally there are just two electrodes," says Binghamton University Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Sherry Towfighian. "Those switches open and close numerous times during just one hour, but their current lifespan is limited by the two-electrode system."

Uniquely so, when the two electrodes touch after multiple repetitions then the surface of the bottom electrode becomes damaged causing a MEMS switch that needs to be discarded and replaced. Therefore, a system needed to be developed that stressed damage avoidance. The new MEMS switch system includes two charged bottom electrodes on the right and left side and the middle and top electrodes are grounded—this replaces the two-electrode model.

Image Retrieved from PCMAG.com

“The new type of microelectromechanical system – more commonly known as a MEMS switch – can extend the life of cell phones and make power lines more reliable.”- Binghamton University

"This type of MEMS switch is normally closed, but the side electrodes provide a strong upward force that can overcome the forces between the two middle electrodes and open the switch," said Towfighian.

With electrostatic levitation, permanent damage is avoided enabling a reliable bi-directional switch which is not currently not available for the two-electrode system.

"For cell phones, this design means longer life and fewer component replacements," explained Towfighian. "For power lines, this type of MEMS switch would be useful when voltage goes beyond a limit and we want to open the switch. The design allows us to have more reliable switches to monitor unusual spikes in voltage, like those caused by an earthquake, that can cause danger to public safety."

Source: Binghamton University

About the Author
BS/MS
Nouran is a scientist, educator, and life-long learner with a passion for making science more communicable. When not busy in the lab isolating blood macrophages, she enjoys writing on various STEM topics.
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