The need for more energy-efficient solid-state switches beyond complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) transistors has become a major concern as the power consumption of electronic integrated circuits (ICs) steadily increases with technology scaling. Nano-Electro-Mechanical (NEM) relays control current flow by nanometer-scale motion to make or break physical contact between electrodes, and offer advantages over transistors for low-power digital logic applications: virtually zero leakage current for negligible static power consumption; the ability to operate with very small voltage signals for low dynamic power consumption; and robustness against harsh environments such as extreme temperatures. Therefore, NEM logic switches (relays) have been investigated by several research groups during the past decade. Circuit simulations calibrated to experimental data indicate that scaled relay technology can overcome the energy-efficiency limit of CMOS technology. This paper reviews recent progress toward this goal, providing an overview of the different relay designs and experimental results achieved by various research groups, as well as of relay-based IC design principles. Remaining challenges for realizing the promise of nano-mechanical computing, and ongoing efforts to address these, are discussed.
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