The proximity switch has several distinct advantages compared to prior designs of capacitive RF MEMS switch:
Absolutely no charging of the gas occurs between the plates. The only charging that may occur is through the mechanical (dielectric) supports maintaining the spacing between the two plates, a very small proportion of the total switch area. This enables the switches to operate with extremely long lifetimes.
Maintaining an air gap between the plates reduces the sensitivity of switch performance to particle contamination. This increases the environmental robustness of the switch.
Lack of dielectric charging also makes these switches ideal candidates for space-based applications, where the impact of radiation on the switch would normally be a reliability issue.
These features make the proximity switch an excellent candidate as a next generation MEMS switch. It is expected that this switch embodiment will have greater than 10x improvement in switch lifetime due to the lack of dielectric charging.