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Switch Roundup: New Devices Make Switches Smaller and Faster

March 14, 2024 by Aaron Carman

From low-voltage to ultra-fast optics, the latest switches improve efficiency and speed for next-generation applications.

Few modern electronic components can be considered as fundamental or as important as the switch. From low-voltage digital logic circuits to high-voltage power electronics, switches are critical in many applications. 

 

Switches support the foundation of modern electronics.

Though they take many forms, switches form a foundation for modern electronics. Image used courtesy of MDPI Micromachines
 

Recently, three organizations have announced their own advancements in switching technology, each targeting a unique use case that could benefit from improved switching performance.

 

Nexperia's Low-Voltage Analog Switch

First, Nexperia has announced its latest four- and eight-channel analog switches: the NMUX1308 and NMUX1309 (datasheets linked). For analog switches, a key limitation can be the need for level shifters on the input logic since it may not always use the same voltage levels as the switch supply. The NMUX13 series, however, comes equipped with a minimum 1.8-V logic level, allowing designers to reduce the number of external components required.

 

Block diagram of the NMUX1308/9

The NMUX1308/9 uses a simple digital interface to connect the common IO (Z) with any of the eight output ports (Y0-7), allowing the chip to target many analog switching applications. Image used courtesy of Nexperia
 

In addition to the larger voltage range, the NMUX13 series does not require any power supply sequencing, allowing designers to simplify their devices without introducing the potential for back-powering through the switches. The NMUX1308 is an eight-channel device, while the NMUX1309 is a dual four-channel device. Each operates within a 1.5 V–5 V supply range and targets automotive and industrial devices. 

 

ST's High-Side Switching Solutions

In a different vein, STMicroelectronics recently announced two eight-channel high-side switching solutions. Each of the chips, the IPS8200HQ (0.7 A max) and IPS8200HQ-1 (1 A max), can be used to switch a wide variety of devices with one side connected to ground. 

 

ST's latest high-side switch

ST's latest high-side switch not only includes high-performance FETs for switching but also peripheral electronics to quickly provide diagnostic information when troubleshooting. Image used courtesy of STMicroelectronics
 

Both the IPS8200HQ and IPS8200HQ-1 (datasheet linked) support a 10.5 V–36 V operating range and 3.3/5 V logic inputs, allowing them to be used in many applications, including programmable logic controllers or CNC machines. The devices can both be programmed through an SPI or parallel connection and have a typical RDS(on) of 110 mΩ.

In addition to their switching performance, the IPS8200HQ chips improve diagnostic abilities, allowing designers to connect up to eight LEDs to quickly and easily monitor the system’s health. The on-chip diagnostic system can report supply voltage health, case temperature, SPI faults, and more, with built-in drivers reducing the external components for full functionality. 

 

Researchers Announce Versatile Optical Switching

To conclude this roundup, researchers from Argonne National Laboratory and Purdue University recently reported an all-optical switch that could be used as a basis for an optical computer. While traditional electronics are limited by resistance and capacitance delays, the move to optical switching could pave the way for higher clock speeds in next-generation applications.

The new optical switch uses two different materials: one “fast” and the other “slow.” At one wavelength, the “fast” material (in this case, aluminum-doped zinc oxide or AZO) can quickly modulate its reflectance to accomplish optical switching. At another wavelength, the “slow” material (plasmonic titanium nitride or TiN) takes a longer time to relax its reflectance, allowing the same switch to accomplish storage.

 

AZO-TiN optical switch

The AZO-TiN optical switch exhibits very different responses at different wavelengths, shown above where a slow relaxation time is seen in (c) with a faster switching time in (e). Image used courtesy of Nature Communications
 

The switch's versatility, combined with its ability to control speeds, can potentially improve optical/electrical links. In addition, optical switches like those presented by Argonne National Lab could be quite useful for devices requiring ultra-fast responses.

 

A Switch for Any Application

While each of the switches shown here has its own distinct impacts, they all provide designers with higher performance and versatility. As trends in semiconductor and optical technologies continue, the efficiency and speed of switches can further improve.