Nanocrystalline graphite offers new class of harsh environment electronics

Reliable operation of microelectromechanical relays by coating the contacts with nanocrystalline layers of graphite, to enable ultra-low-power electronics for harsh environments.

A microelectromechanical relay with the contact electrode surfaces covered by a 100nm thick layer of nanocrystalline graphite (inset)
A microelectromechanical relay with the contact electrode surfaces covered by a 100nm thick layer of nanocrystalline graphite (inset)

Small-scale and nanoelectromechanical transfers have adequately zero spillage current and can work at considerably higher temperatures and levels of radiation than strong state transistors. Such scaled-down transfers can possibly acknowledge shrewd electronic parts with incorporated detecting, handling, and actuation that are greatly vitality effective.

Scientists at the Universities of Bristol and Southampton, in collaboration with Microsemi, have demonstrated the dependable operation of microelectromechanical transfers by covering the contacts with nanocrystalline layers of graphite, to empower ultra-low-control hardware for cruel conditions.

The study demonstrates how films of nanocrystalline graphite that have a thickness of several nm ensure the relay tips against degradation more than a large number of exchanging cycles and gives a dependable electrical contact.

A research group led by Dr. Dinesh Pamunuwa, said: “This is a breakthrough result that could pave the way for a new class of extremely energy-efficient electronic components for use in emerging paradigms such as autonomous sensor nodes in the Internet-of-Things.

“The relays can withstand temperatures over 225˚C and can easily absorb radiation doses that are two orders of magnitude higher than transistors are able to withstand. The challenge has been to make them reliable, and these thin films of nanocrystalline graphite effectively act as a conducting solid lubricant, protecting the relay electrodes as they physically make and break contact millions of times.”

The relays were designed by Dr. Sunil Rana, a senior postdoctoral research associate at Bristol. The work was carried out as a collaboration between Bristol’s Microelectronics research group led by Dr. Dinesh Pamunuwa, and Dr. Harold Chong’s group at Southampton University, with Dr. Jamie Reynolds and Dr. Suan Hui Pu.

The work is published in Carbon.