Tech Briefs

The integration of a rectenna makes it possible to wirelessly control the nanoionic switch completely without onboard power.

A new nonvolatile nanoionic switch is powered and controlled through wireless radio-frequency (RF) transmission. A thin layer of chalcogenide glass doped with a metal ion, such as silver, comprises the operational portion of the switch. For the switch to function, an oxidizable electrode is made positive (anode) with respect to an opposing electrode (cathode) when sufficient bias, typically on the order of a few tenths of a volt or more, is applied. This action causes the metal ions to flow toward the cathode through a coordinated hopping mechanism. At the cathode, a reduction reaction occurs to form a metal deposit. This metal deposit creates a conductive path that bridges the gap between electrodes to turn the switch on. Once this conductive path is formed, no further power is required to maintain it. To reverse this process, the metal deposit is made positive with respect to the original oxidizable electrode, causing the dissolution of the metal bridge thereby turning the switch off. Once the metal deposit has been completely dissolved, the process self-terminates.

This switching process features the following attributes. It requires very little voltage/current and only needs power to change states (i.e., on and off). Furthermore, no power is required to maintain the states; hence, the state of the switch is nonvolatile. Because of these attributes the integration of a rectenna to provide the necessary power and control is unique to this embodiment. A rectenna, or rectifying antenna, generates DC power from an incident RF signal. The low voltages and power required for the nanoionic switch control are easily generated from this system and provide the switch with a novel capability to be operated and powered from an external wireless device. In one realization, an RF signal of a specific frequency can be used to set the switch into an off state, while another frequency can be used to set the switch to an on state.

The wireless, miniaturized, and no-moving- part features of this switch make it suitable for applications such as integration into garments, RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags, and conformal structures (e.g., aircraft wings, sounding rockets contours, etc). In the case of RFID tags the innovation will provide countermeasures to attempts for identity theft and other uninvited attempts for retrieval of information. It could also be applicable to the automotive industry as well as the aerospace industry for collision avoidance and phased array radar systems, respectively.

This work was done by James Nessel and Felix Miranda of Glenn Research Center.

Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to NASA Glenn Research Center, Innovative Partnerships Office, Attn: Steven Fedor, Mail Stop 4–8, 21000 Brookpark Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44135. LEW-18919-1

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).

Wireless Chalcogenide Nanoionic-Based Radio- Frequency Switch (reference LEW-18919-1) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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