"MEMS-based Reconfigurable Manifold Update"

Warren Wilson1, James Lyke1 and Glenn Forman2

1Air Force Research Laboratory, Space Vehicles Directorate
2GE Global Research


For adaptive space systems of the future, AFRL/VSSE is pursuing the development of a microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) -based reconfigurable wiring manifold that can be programmed using techniques adapted from FPGA synthesis.

The manifold is based on an interconnection network in a planar, multilayer printed wiring media into which are integrated a large number of micro-miniature latching relays. The relays, based on MEMS technology, can ultimately be integrated at densities above 100 / cm2. When integrated into a judiciously designed wiring media, these MEMS relays can be thought of as individual software-controlled wires, reducing pathway configurations on a large scale to a series of 0-1 programming decisions.

Adaptive manifolds could be used to recover failed systems in the field, change functionality in a system after deployment (extend or enable new missions), or simply allow for a vastly greater flexibility in the design, use, and operation of systems. In some cases, space assets can be remotely or autonomously reconfigured and refocused to adapt to changing mission needs in a way far more flexible than permitted through software only changes inside of an ordinary computer. For space systems, this would directly result in the reduction in the size and mass of spacecraft systems by maximizing the utilization of the individual components themselves.

The adaptive manifold is an enabling technology in the sense that it will contribute to the development of miniaturized, intelligent, self-repairing and self-programming sensor systems. The talk will present an overview of the manifold concept, and will discuss the potential applications to specific systems, the requirements of the MEMS switches, the principles of design and synthesis needed in the manifold concept and results of a two panel implementation of a reconfigurable wiring manifold using over 200 MEMS latching relays.


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