A power switching system combining a MEMS (Microelectromechanical systems) switch and an arc suppression circuit has been developed. The system, using a single 3mm × 3mm MEMS switch die coupled with protection electronics, has been demonstrated to switch both resistive loads and inductive loads to a peak power of around 800W. The entire opening and closing operations are completed in a few microseconds, orders of magnitude faster than mechanical relays and nearly as fast as solid state devices. The MEMS switch is an array of microscale cantilevered relays that are electrostatically opened and closed in microseconds. A pulsed diode bridge protection circuitry is used in conjunction with the MEMS switch to open and close the energized contacts without damaging the contacting surface and without generating an arc. This MEMS based power switching system is scaled in both series and parallel to increase the switched voltage and current capability respectively. MEMS switch based power switching has the capability to enable both current limiting and arc free switching, characteristics that can significantly reduce dangerous downstream fault energy for AC and DC protection and distribution applications.
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