High-frequency switch for future 6G networks

High-frequency switch for future 6G networks

Technology News |
By Wisse Hettinga

UAB (University of Barcelona) researchers were involved in the development of a switch, an essential device in telecommunications, capable of operating at very high frequency with lower power consumption than conventional technologies

The technology has applications in the new 6G mass communication systems and is more sustainable in terms of energy consumption than current devices. The study was published recently in Nature Electronics.

An indispensable element for controlling signals in electronic communication devices is the switch, whose function is to allow an electrical signal to pass (ON state) or to block it (OFF state). The fastest elements currently used to perform this function are silicon-based (the so-called RF silicon-on-insulator MOSFET switches) and operate using signals with frequencies of tens of gigahertz (GHz). However, they are volatile, i.e., they require a constant power source to maintain the ON state.

To improve current communication systems and meet the demand for increasingly faster communications that will involve the Internet of Things (IoT) and the popularization of virtual reality, it is necessary to increase the frequency of the signals with which these elements are able to act, and improve their performance.

An international collaboration involving researchers from the UAB Department of Telecommunications and Systems Engineering has developed a switch that, for the first time, is capable of performing at twice the operating frequency of current silicon-based devices, with a frequency range of up to 120 GHz, and without the need to apply a constant voltage.

The new switch uses a non-volatile material, called hBN (Hexagonal Boron Nitride), which allows its ON or OFF state to be activated by applying an electrical voltage pulse instead of a constant signal. In this way, the energy savings that can be attained are very significant.

“Our research team from the Department of Telecommunications and Systems Engineering at the UAB was involved in the design of the devices and their experimental characterization in the laboratory,” explains researcher Jordi Verdú.

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