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Chris Keimel GE Research

Niskayuna, NY USA

Glenn Claydon GE Research

Niskayuna, NY USA

Bo Li GE Research
Niskayuna, NY USA

John Park GE Research

Niskayuna, NY USA

Marcelo E. Valdes GE Industrial Sol.

Plainville, CT USA

Abstract: A new system for switching electrical power using Micro-Electromechanical-Systems (MEMS) is presented. The heart of the system utilizes custom designed MEMS switching device arrays that are able to conduct current more efficiently and can open orders of magnitude faster than traditional macroscopic mechanical relays. Up to now, MEMS switches have been recognized for their ability to switch very quickly due to their low mass, but have only been used to carry and switch very low currents at extremely low voltage. However, recent developments have enabled suppression of the arc that normally occurs when the MEMS switch is opened while current is flowing. The combination of the arc suppression with the MEMS switch arrays designed for this purpose enables a breakthrough increase in current and voltage handling capability. The resultant technology has been scaled to handle many Amps of current and switch 100s of volts. Such current and voltage handling capability delivers improved energy efficiency and the capacity to handle fault current levels that are encountered in typical AC or DC power systems. Fault current interruption takes place in less than 10 microseconds, almost regardless of the prospective fault current magnitude. The properties of the MEMS switch arrays allow the switching mechanism to operate at temperatures in excess of 200 deg. C. The switches also have a vibration tolerance in excess of 1000G. The combination of fast MEMS switching speed, optimized current and voltage handling capacity of the switch arrays, the arc suppression circuitry and optimized sensing and control enable a single sensing, control and switching system to operate in a small fraction of a millisecond. This paper will present the basic physics of the MEMS switches together with recent advances that enable the technology. Some illustrative examples of the ways the devices may be used to provide protection and control within electrical systems will also be presented. Index Terms: Micro-Electromechanical-Systems, switching, microsecond-switching, current-limiting. I. INTRODUCTION micro-

Todays fault protection systems use breakers or switches that open circuits after a fault is detected, however the rapidly rising current is only interrupted after significant energy has already traveled through the fault interrupter. Such power surges often damage generators, distribution systems, conductors, loads and create hazard to personnel. Very fast fault current detection and interruption is needed to mitigate the damage caused by excessive fault currents. The MEMS based microsecond arcless interruption can deliver the interruption speed required to mitigate damage to conductors and loads, as well as to the switching device. Electrical discharge or arcing across opening mechanical contacts, a phenomenon studied since the advent of electricity [1-5], is eliminated through the use of an electronic protection system

combined with an ultrafast micro-scale electrical relay based on MEMS switch [6-9] technology. When fault situations occur in electrical power distribution systems, conventional power circuit protection devices, even current limiting ones can react too slowly to adequately limit destructive energy dissipation that damages electronic equipment downstream from the fault interrupter. Additionally, even normal interruption related discharge plasmas and arc energy can eventually damage the contacts used in breakers and contactors, thereby rendering the devices inoperable. The authors have developed and demonstrated a micronscaled ultra-fast mechanical switch array and integrated the array with fast electrical bypass circuitry to create a system that switches electrical energy, without a significant arc, in a few microseconds. Arc energy between the switching contacts is reduced by a factor of up to one million, and this small amount of energy does not damage the MEMS micro scale contact gap or the nano-sized contact surface topography of the contacts. This ultra-fast and arc free switching system (current sensing, decision logic, control logic, switch opening, commutation) capability responds to a fault much faster than even a fuse, and is completely resettable due to the lack of arc damage. The system described here has been used to turn on and off a 3/4HP motor and, more importantly, to provide arcless protection in a system with 16,000A prospective fault current. Eliminating electrical discharges during switching events represents a new way to improve the robustness of electrical systems, and has the potential to fundamentally change the way we think about distributing power and protecting AC and DC electrical distribution networks. There is also a growing demand for grid energy management and for mobile energy storage and usage that is challenging the way we traditionally think about how we use energy and how we protect that use. Transitioning from the macro-scale to the micro-scale enables a major technical breakthrough in the expanding field of electrical switching. Mechanical switches have been used for more than a century to physically open electrical circuits and halt the flow of current. We know that the parting of contacts carrying inductive current causes an arc and we have come to accept the arcing phenomenon as unavoidable when switching power. Electrical switching has been studied in great depth; numerous books and papers have been written and improvements have been made to minimize the switching arc energy and to contain this energy during a fault [10-13]. Also, advances in power electronic switching circuitry and semiconductor devices have enabled arcless switching, although the consequence is greater power dissipation and leakage [14 & 15]. However, only recently have we been able to eliminate the arc for both AC and DC mechanical switching. Existing protection devices need to be faster, for

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some applications they need to be miniaturized and, they need to minimize harmful power dissipation while maintaining and improving upon todays safety expectations. Arc free micro-mechanical protection systems enable these capabilities for future generations of protection systems. II. ARC FREE MECHANICAL SWITCHING A. Arrangement Arc free mechanical switching has been achieved through a combination of fast switching speed and the ability to open the contacts at a forced and momentary artificially induced zero voltage. The fast switching speed is achieved through an electrostatically actuated micro mechanical switch, shown in fig. 1, that is microns in size and that is switched between the open and closed state in micro seconds. Fast switching speed is critical in order to open the contacts at precisely the moment when an externally created shunt is momentarily created to provide a near-zero voltage across the mechanical contacts [16]. The momentary shunt is established around the mechanical switches for a few microseconds by using a pulsed balanced diode bridge. The diode bridge shown in fig. 2 functions to divert the load current momentarily away from the switches and when properly balanced, the bridge creates a near zero voltage potential across the switch contacts. When the switches are in the closed state, they can be scaled to carry the current levels associated with steady state, inrush and momentary transient currents. To open the switches safely, the diode bridge shunt is activated to force a temporary near-zero voltage condition, while the contacts separate rapidly, commutating current to the diode bridge due to the increasing (non-linear) switch resistance. The switches open with only a minimal induced transient voltage spike caused by localized stray inductance on the order of 10s to hundreds of millivolts. The transient voltage spike is not sufficient to cause an arc across the contacts. After a few microseconds the switches have fully opened and the pulsed diode bridge turns off, leaving the micro switches to hold the full system applied voltage. To close the switch safely with voltage present across the contacts, an analogous sequencepulsing the diode bridge to collapse the voltage across the contacts while they rapidly close- is used. The contacts exhibit no visible surface damage after thousands of switching operations when protected in this manner.

10 m

Hinge Beam (50um)




Substrate Air Gap (1 m) Gate

Hinge Beam (50um) Substrate Air Gap (<1 m)



Fig.1 a) Side view SEM image of the first 50um long micro switch in a large array of switches. The location of the hinge, gate and electrical contacts are indicated. A barely visible 1um air gap separates the conductive beam from the gate and contact when the switch is open. b) Schematic of the micro switch in its open state, when the gate voltage is low. c) Schematic of the micro switch in its closed state, when the gate voltage is high.

Fig 2 Electrical schematic detailing the basic elements of a protected arc-free switching circuit including the MEMS switch, the diode bridge and the pulsing circuitry that closes into load side voltage and opens load current.

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B. Switch Fabrication The micro switches are fabricated similar to semiconductor devices in a Class 100 cleanroom using various based processing techniques common in the fabrication of semiconductor devices, including photolithography, physical vapor deposition, sputtering, plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition, reactive ion etching, wet chemical etching, and electroplating to form and pattern the multiple material layers that make up the actuated mechanical structures. The basic switch element is a free standing ~50um wide mechanical cantilever beam that is anchored on one end and that extends ~50um towards and 1um above its separated contact on its opposite end. An array of individual switching beams is fabricated from a high strength nickel alloy. The alloy and its processing conditions have been optimized to resist time dependent deformation. The beam deflects approximately 1um after it has been electrostatically actuated to make ohmic contact between an upper and lower contact. When the switches are closed, they have a resistance of about 1 ohm per switch element. Hundreds of tiny cantilever beams have been arrayed in parallel on a single 3mm by 3mm size die. The use of parallel array architecture on the MEMS die show in fig. 3 lowers the ohmic contact resistance to less than 100mohms and enables a single MEMS die to carry in excess of five amperes of continuous current.

modified Paschen curve. A leakage current of a few picoamperes is measurable when the switches on a single die are open, and this current is believed to be due to surface leakage.

~3usec Turn On

Gate : 20V / div Signal: 5mA / div

Gate-on 110V

5mA signal Gate-off 0V

Gate-on 110V

<1usec Turn Off

Gate : 20V / div Signal: 5mA / div

5mA signal

Signal isolation

Gate-off 0V
Fig 4 a) An Oscilloscope trace illustrates a 3 usec closing time for a 200 micro switch array. The initial transient is a measurement artifact due to the high dI/dt from the gate signal. b) Oscilloscope trace measurement indicating the opening time of a 200 micro switch array is less than 1 Xsec. Both measurements are taken at low current levels for trace clarity. The open and close times remain consistent at higher currents.

Fig 3 Top down image of a power switching micro switch array on a dime for size reference. The chip contains 200 micro-scale mechanical switching units in parallel capable and tested to 350V withstand and 10A steady state current per die.

C. Switch physics The entire array of micro-scale cantilevered switches are opened and closed simultaneously in about 1usec by applying an electrostatic force to the cantilever beam through a separate common gate electrode. The gate to beam spacing is also 1um when the switch is open. In fig. 4, the switch array is pulled closed in ~1usec when ~80V is applied to the signal line and the switch opens in <3usec when the voltage is removed from the line and the beams restoring force return them to their original open position. When the switches are open, 300V can be sustained across the 1um gap. This sustained voltage is possible due to the gap being smaller than the mean free path of the gas molecules and thus minimizing the effect of avalanche breakdown by minimizing the ionization potential. At gaps smaller than the Paschen minimum of 327V in air, field emission becomes significant. The contacts and their roughness have been designed and fabricated to minimize field emission effects at small gaps and have enabled sustained voltages >300V across a 1um gap, a value that exceeds the limits of the

A distinct advantage of electrostatic operation is the extremely low power required to toggle between the open and closed states. The actuating electrode behaves as a very small zero-loss capacitor from the perspective of the drive electronics and the ON-state requires no current and therefore no power to maintain. Power is required from the drive electronics only during the charge and discharge transitions of the small gate capacitance during the few microsecond switching transients. The high strength nickel alloy that makes up the cantilever element enables mechanical switch operation at temperatures greater than 200C. Also, the small size of each individual switch element and its ultra-low mass make the switching device capable of sustaining >1000G shock without changing state. III. ELECTRONIC PROTECTION AND MICRO SWITCH INTEGRATION Without switching protection (the pulsed diode bridge), the high speed of the micro switches alone cannot break current nor switch into significant voltage without damaging electrical

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discharge occurring to the contacts [17-18]. The switches are positioned at the midpoint of a balanced diode bridge and when the diode bridge is conducting, the mid-point voltage is near zero. Four conditions must be present to open the micro switches without electrical discharge. First, the diode bridge that shunts the micro switches must create a momentary near-zero voltage-drop across the micro switches for them to open safely. The near-zero voltage condition is assured through a resonant pulse network. A charged capacitor is discharged into an inductive element in series with the diode bridge. This discharge event creates a half-sinusoidal current pulse that is 20usec in duration. The current pulse divides equally between both legs of the diode bridge causing the diodes to conduct and the midpoints of the bridge to be at equal potentials. These microsecond events are captured in the oscilloscope traces shown in fig. 5. The micro switches across the bridge midpoint experience a nearzero voltage drop (<500mV). The equivalent circuit presented to the contacts connected across the bridge comprises a very low resistance due to the very-low value diode body resistance of the bridge diodes in addition to a very small voltage component due to the imbalance current in the bridge and the switch circuit configuration parasitic inductances.

Pulse Gate I-Load V-Load

= = = =

Brown 5A/ div Yellow 20V/ div Magenta 1A/ div Green 40V/div

In-Rush Current

20 usec / div


Gate On Pulse Current

Load Off

Voltage On

Gate Off

Pulse Gate I-Load V-Load

= = = =

Brown 5A/ div Y ellow 20V/ div Magenta 1A/ div Green 40V/ div

20 usec / div

Gate On

Pulse Current

Steady State Current Load Off

Current Decreasing

Voltage Rising Gate Off

Pulse Gate I-Load V-Load = = = = Brown 5A/ div Y ellow 20V/ div Magenta 1A/div Green 40V/ div

5A Inrush 400 msec / div

Gate On

Open: 150V Steady State Current

Voltage Low

Load Off Gate Off

Fig 5 a) Oscilloscope trace of arc free turn on event of a resistive light bulb load at 150V with 5A inrush current using a single micro switch chip and protection circuit. b) Oscilloscope trace of arc free turn off event at 1.5A steady state, back-charging the protection circuit as the voltage rises to 150V. c) Oscilloscope trace capturing the repetitive 2Hz cycling through microsecond scale turn on into 150V and a 5A inrush and turn off into 1.5A steady state current and voltage rising to 150V.

Second, the diode bridge (which shunts the micro switches when pulsed) must present a temporary electrical resistance path that is smaller than the closed contact resistance of the MEMS switch array. This condition enables the load current to be diverted from the switch array into the diode bridge as the micro switches start to open. Load current transfer is achieved as a consequence of the resonant pulse and the transient interaction between the bridge and the micro switches to effectively transfer current within a few microseconds. The transient current pulse must

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be greater than the current through the micro switches and ideally, be more than 1.5 times l than the switch current in order to minimally perturb the voltage balance across the diode bridge as the switch current is absorbed into the bridge circuit. Also, when the diode bridge is conducting, it must present a low resistive path such that the current commutates from the micro switches to the shunt. This current commutation is achieved in a few microseconds. It is anticipated that the switch array resistance increases dramatically as the switches metal to metal ohmic contacts begin to physically separate. The decrease in contact pressure causes the nano scale contact areas to decrease in size, restricting the overall conductive area and increasing the contact resistance [19-21]. This change in resistance occurs over ~1usec until the contacts are physically separated by an air gap, transferring the load current to the diode bridge shunt, and halting the current flow through the micro switches. Third, the inductance between the micro switch contacts and the diode bridge must be minimized to be on the order of nano Henrys to permit transfer of the current within microseconds. This inductance limits the speed at which current can be transferred and produces an undesirable energy storage element that can, if the parasitic inductance were too large, produce unwanted transient voltage on the order of volts across the mechanical contacts when parting. The transient voltage spikes, if great enough, can produce contact damaging electrical discharges or arc currents. When properly minimized, the transient voltage induced is not sufficient to generate an electrical discharge between the parting contacts. Finally, the inherently fast opening rate of the micro switches insures that the fully open state will be achieved before the applied voltage across the opening switches increases in order to prevent voltage breakdown or arcing. The rate of voltage increase is determined by the load circuit impedance (inductance and capacitance) together with the magnitude of both the source and load voltages. The low mass of the switches combined with their optimized damping prevents any contact bouncing or reclosing of the switch that would initiate an arc and collapse the voltage across the unprotected contacts. The switches then achieve an open and safe stable off state. After the micro switch is opened (see fig. 2), the load current now resonantly reverse-charges the pulse capacitor and provides an increasing back-voltage. The back-voltage acts counter to the load system voltages to rapidly reduce the load current. It is important to note that the open micro switch contacts sustain the voltage and protect the circuit while the transient current reacts with the pulse circuitry. During this process the initially equal pulse bridge branch currents rapidly start to unbalance. The diverted load current acts to increase the current in one pair of pulse bridge diodes while the current in the remaining pair decreases. When the decreasing pair branch current reaches zero those paired diodes open and the remaining diode pair branch current assumes the decreasing load current. Finally, the load current is reduced to zero when the pulse capacitor voltage becomes equal to and oppositely directed to the load voltage source. At this event, the diodes turn off and load current stops. This turn-off transient process can be much longer

than the 20uS bridge pulse current used to open the contacts and protect the load. The transient re-charge duration is determined by the load and power circuit inductances and the decreasing voltage difference between the capacitor voltage and the source voltage. Typically this turn-off transient requires about 100uS but is directly dependent upon the total circuit inductance. While the load is back charging the capacitor, the load is isolated and protected by the physically separated contacts of the micro switch and the reverse biased diodes in the parallel pulsing circuit contribute a miniscule leakage across the micro switch terminals. IV. LOAD SWITCHING EXPERIMENTS Using the MEMS based arc-free switching technology just described; arcless switching in a laboratory scale environment for both AC and DC systems has been demonstrated. With the ability to detect, make a decision and open a circuit in a few microseconds, this technology is equally applicable to both AC and DC systems. When analyzing ten microsecond long segments of a 60Hz sinusoid, the voltage oscillations present on the millisecond time scale virtually vanish and become nearly constant and appear similar to a constant DC source. The applicability to both AC and DC systems is a result of its speed, the linearity of its ohmic contacts and the bipolar nature of the diode bridge. Microsecond switching speed also has an advantage in protection systems. With fault current rates of rise as quick as 30A per microsecond, every microsecond counts in a protection devices ability to limit the system fault energy. The fast arcless switching technology presented in this paper can interrupt fault currents nearly instantaneously, with the result that prospective fault currents of any magnitude can be limited to values dictated by the application, not the interruption devices limitations. A prospective current of over 100,000A can be limited to a few hundred amperes via current interruption over the span of a few 10s of microseconds. This rapid switching system enables the capability to limit fault currents, to open faulted circuits without generating an arc, be resettable after a fault, and be compatible to both AC and DC switching systems. The same mechanism can be used to transfer a load from one source to another within the same time frame allowing for source transfers within 10s of microseconds. A single beam micro switching device has limited voltage and current carrying capacity. To achieve capacity beyond that of a single beam device, both series switch scalability (to increase ability to withstand voltage) and parallel switch scalability (to increase steady state and transient current handling capacity) are demonstrated feasible. To maximize the off-state hold-off voltage of a series switch string, a resistive grading network is connected in parallel to equally divide the off-state voltage across each switch. The resultant circuit topography enables the series string hold-off voltage to reach the sum of the individual switch hold-off voltages. Minimizing the grading network parasitic capacitance and inductance assures voltages will be balanced across the switches within a fraction of a microsecond after the switch contacts part. It is also possible to scale both the steady state and transient current handling capacity of a switching system by adding additional devices in parallel. Again, by minimizing parasitic inductance and capacitance between the switch and the protection circuitry to nano-henry and pico-

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farad levels, current can be transferred to and from the ultrafast mechanical micro switches equally and within a microsecond, as shown in fig. 6, such that no single device carries a majority of the current during very fast transient events.

2.5 msec/div 2A/div 2 A/div

Ipulse = Yellow 5A/div Vgate = Cyan 20V/div Vg(high) = Red 5V/div Vg(mid) Green 5V/div

200 usec/ div

MEMS Array Open

Pulse Current Vg(high) @ 19V

MEMS Array Closed

Vg(mid) @ 9.5V

Fig 6 Oscilloscope trace showing current sharing of a resistive load through 4 parallel MEMS devices assembled on a board. Oscilloscope trace showing the voltage rise and equivalent grading required for MEMS devices and their grading network to share and sustain voltage within microseconds after the opening.

Both AC and DC loads are capable of drawing an in-rush current that is multiple times greater than the steady state current. The in-rush typically lasts milliseconds to seconds depending on the load. Managing this in-rush is a critical aspect of the technology. Because the size of the switching element is smaller than a hair and its mass is miniscule, the heat generated at the contact is quickly conducted through the ultra-small switching element so that it reaches equilibrium in less than a second. In-rush effects and the current sharing capability of small switch arrays were studied by utilizing a resistive load composed of 12 parallel 60-watt light bulbs. The light bulb array was switched on and off at 1Hz by our MEMS based power switching system. The systems consisted of 5 individual MEMS device arrays that were configured to carry and switch the load. When the light bulbs were energized to 60V DC, a 13A peak current with a 1 millisecond duration in-rush could be handled by the MEMS switches. The system, shown in fig. 5 along with oscilloscope traces of open and close events, was switched for well over 1000 operations without any noticeable performance changes.

AC and DC motors have been switched on and off to quantify effects of switching inductive loads at voltages under 50V. These experiments were conducted with a 3/4HP AC and a HP DC unloaded motor. Motors present two specific challenges to the switching system. The first being the lengthier in-rush current during start up and the second being the inductive voltage kick that appears across the switch when turning off the motor load. The MEMS based switching system sustained milliseconds of in-rush and also successfully handled the rapid inductive buildup of voltage when the system switched off. A significant advantage of MEMS based switching systems is realized when protecting against prospective fault and short circuit currents. Fault currents rise rapidly (in microseconds), so the ability to interrupt these rapidly rising currents nearly instantaneously prevents the short circuit current from reaching dangerous and destructive levels. A 16 000 amp prospective fault current was experimentally simulated using a 9 farad capacitor bank that was charged to 25 volts. The fault current pulse was generated when charged capacitors were connected across a low value resistive load. To verify that the current could reach dangerous levels in the unprotected circuit, a 10A fuse was placed in series with the resistive load and when the circuit was shorted, the fuse vaporized under the peak current pulse. The same experiment was performed using a 10A circuit breaker. In a similar fashion to the fuse experiment, the breaker protected against the full peak current but the breakers metal contacts were vaporized from the arc that was generated, and the breaker was destroyed. In both cases where conventional fault protection was employed, the duration of the fault current was many milliseconds. Finally the MEMS based protection system was put in series with the load along with both the fuse and the breaker. For experimental simplicity a timing circuit was used to initiate the protection sequence in 8 microseconds after the fault event. A Hall Effect current sensor or other sensing technology could be used to detect overcurrent and command a trip in a similar time frame. In fig. 7, the circuit was shorted into the charged capacitor bank and the MEMS based switching system limited the current to 4Amps and opened the circuit in microseconds, thereby protecting both the circuit breaker and the fuse. This experiment demonstrated that the microsecond switching speed of the micro-mechanical MEMS based switch incorporating the discussed protection electronics does successfully limit fault currents to a level that is multiple orders of magnitude below todays best protection devices.

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Vgate MEMS Array

~16 kA ~4A

VI. BIBLIOGRAPHY 1) Franklin, B., Briefe von der Elektrizitat, Ubersetzt von Wilcke, Leipzig: Kiesewetter 1758. 2) Priestley, J., The History and Present State of Electricity, London, Dodsley 1767. 3) Morgan, G. E., Vorlesungen Uber die Elektriztat, Leipzig: Weidmannsche Buchhandl, 1798. 4) Seebeck, Th., Magnetische Polarisation der Metalle und Erze durch Temperaturdifferenz, Abh. Berl. Akad. Wiss. 1822/23. 5) Auerbach, F, Uber die Elektrizitatsleitung von Metallpulvern, Wiedemanns Ann. 28 (1886) 6) Petersen, K.E., "Micromechanical Membrane Switches on Silicon", I.B.M. Journal of Research and Development, 23(4), 376-385, 1979 7) Petersen, K.E., "Silicon as a mechanical material", Proceedings of the IEEE, 70(5), 420-456, 1982 8) Zavaracky, P.M., McGruer, N. E., Morrison, R. H., and Potter, D., Micro switches and microrelays with a view toward microwave applications, Int. J. RF Microwave CAE, Vol. 9, 338-347, 1999 9) Rebeiz, Gabriel M., RF MEMS Theory, Design, and Technology, Wiley, Hoboken, NJ 2003 10) Holm, R., Die Technische Physik der Electrischen Kontakte, Springers Verlag, Berlin, 1941 11) Holm, R., Electric Contacts, J. Springers Verlag, Berlin, 1946 12) Browne, T. E., The electric arc as a circuit element, J. Electrochemical Society. 102(1), 27-37, 1955 13) Browne, T. E., Circuit Interruptio:n Theory and Techniques, Marcel Dekker, New York, 1984 14) Erickson, R., Fundamentals of Power Electronics, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Norwall, MA, 200 15) Heumann, K., Basic principles of power electronics, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, 1986 16) Howell, E. K. Solid state current limiting circuit interrupter, U.S. Patent 4,700,256, 1987 17) Paschen, F., "Ueber die xum Funkenubergang in Luft, Wasserstoff und Kohlensaure bei verschiedenen Drucken erforderliche Potentialdifferenz", Annalen der Physik, .37, 6996, 1889 18) Townsend, J.S., The Theory of Ionization of Gases by Collision, London: Constable & Co. Ltd.1910 19) Hyman, D. and Mehregany, M., "Contact physics of gold microcontacts for MEMS", in Electrical Contacts, 1998. Proceedings of the Forty-Fourth IEEE Holm Conference. 133140, 1998 20) Wang, Jo-ey., "Analysis, Design, Fabrication and Testing of a MEMS Switch for Power Applications", Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Cambridge, MA, 2000 21) Majumder, S.; McGruer, N.E.; Adams, G.G.; , "Adhesion and contact resistance in an electrostatic MEMS micro switch," Micro Electro Mechanical Systems, 18th IEEE International Conference, 215- 218, 20 VII. VITAE

Load Current ~0.4A

4 usec/ div
Fig 7 Oscilloscope trace; rapid rise and successful arc-free and fault limiting trip (pink trace) of a 9F capacitor bank charged to ~25V. 16kA prospective short circuit current limited to 4A in 16usec. The blue trace is the microsecond fall of the switchs gate signal and the green trace is the 16usec protection pulse through the diode bride.

V. CONCLUSION The authors believe that a revolutionary new type of ultrafast mechanical switching and protection system has been developed. The system employs MEMS based switches that can open and close circuits in microseconds. The developed pulse diode bridge technology enables the ultra-fast mechanical switches to open while current is flowing and to close with voltage across their contacts, both in an arc-free manner. This novel switching capability has been shown to be scalable up to 600 VAC and has been shown to successfully open and close into both resistive and inductive loads. In addition, the benefit of microsecond speed switching has been demonstrated by successfully protecting both a fuse and a circuit breaker from a 16,000A prospective short circuit current by switching off the fault current within microseconds and limiting the current to only a few amperes. This technology has the potential to provide next generation protection capability by enabling fast mechanical switching speeds that limit fault currents up to 100X, reduce fault energies by up to 1,000,000X and switch loads and faulted circuits completely arc free. The experimentation carries out so far has shown that the switch mechanisms can be scaled upward from milliamperes to tens of amperes and from millivolts to hundreds of volts. With further application specific development it possible that this type of switching could take over from traditional mechanical switching for overcurrent protection, control and transfer switch applications. The fast switching enables supervising electronics to control multiple switching devices simultaneously allowing, essentially, one processor to control interruption, source transfer or completely change a distribution schemes topology within a power cycle. The switching does not differentiate between DC and AC current, handling both with equal facility further expanding potential applications.

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Chris Keimel received a B.S. degree in materials science and engineering from Cornell University and a M.S. degree in electrical engineering from Princeton University. He has been with GEs Global Research Center since 2003 where he is currently a process development engineer leading the MEMS Switch efforts. His research interests include the materials, fabrication, design and integration of micro and nanoscale mechanical and electronic devices including MEMS, NEMS and quantum dots. He currently holds 8 granted patents and has authored or coauthored more than 10 journal publications. Dr. John N. Park received the degrees of BEE, MEE, and PhD in Electrical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) 1953, 1956, and 1966. John served on RPIs Electrical Engineering Faculty from 1956 until 1976 where he was responsible for electronics research and the teaching of both graduate and undergraduate EE courses as well as serving as a consultant to private industry. After leaving RPI, Dr. Park worked for General Electric Corporate Research and Development (GE-GRC) from 1976 to 1998. Since retirement and to date Dr. Park has conducted research in power electronics as a part-time consultant to private industries and to GE-GRC. John has worked in the fields of power electronics, signal level electronics, and electronic device physics. Marcelo E. Valdes graduated from Cornell University in1977 with a BS in electrical engineering. He has been with GE for over 31 years, in field engineering, sales, marketing, and application engineering. He is currently the manager of Application Engineering for GEs Electrical Distribution Business in Plainville, Connecticut, where he provides application engineering and strategic product planning leadership. Mr. Valdes is past chair of the IEEE Power and Industrial Applications Engineering chapter in San Jose, CA, and the Industrial Applications chapter in San Francisco, CA.

He is a registered Professional Electrical Engineer in California. Mr. Valdes has authored and co-authored 0ver a dozen papers for IEEE and other engineering forums, and has 10 patents in the field of power systems protection and circuit breaker trip systems. Dr. Bo Li received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 2007 and his MS and BS in Electrical Engineering from Xian Jiaotong University, China, in 2002 and 1999. He joined GE Global Research Center as an electrical engineer in 2008. His research interests are microsystems, sensors, and medical devices and systems. Dr. Li is an IEEE member. Mr. Glenn Claydon has worked for GE Global Research for 31 years. Since receiving his BSEE, his career can has spanned multiple technology areas including Power Electronics, ASICs, Electronic Packaging, High Density Interconnects and MEMS. Within the power electronics field he developed and assembled high frequency switching power supplies and DC/DC converters. He also designed high voltage BiCMOS smart power ASICs for controlling these power supplies and converters. After years in power electronics, his research focused on advanced packaging and interconnect-technologies for microelectronics. In recent years he has worked on MEMS prototype designs and process development as well as photonic polymer waveguide process development and integration. Constant throughout all these phases has been his expertise in CAD tools, particularly those associated with design simulation, layout, and verification. He has more than 20 refereed publications in a wide variety of journals and conferences and 31 patents granted. He is green belt certified by the GE Six Sigma quality management program and a past member of IEEE, SMTA, and SPIE.

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