Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyTagged Content List

Electronics and Microchips

Technologies based on the manipulation of electrons and, increasingly, photons

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Dr. Timothy M. Hancock joined DARPA as a program manager in September 2016. His research interests revolve around RF microsystem development that spans semiconductor device processing, circuit design and system integration for communication, radar, and electromagnetic spectrum- sensing applications.
Since its inception in 1991, DARPA’s Microsystems Technology Office (MTO) has been working to create and prevent strategic surprise through investments in compact microelectronic components such as microprocessors, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), and photonic devices. MTO-derived innovations and advanced capabilities in areas such as wide-band gap materials, phased-array radars, high-energy lasers, and infrared imaging have helped the United States establish and maintain technological superiority for more than two decades.
For years, DARPA and its Service partners pursued the technically daunting task of developing high-power-density, wide-band-gap semiconductor components in the recognition that, whatever the end-state task, U.S. forces would need electronics that could operate and engage at increasing range. The result was a series of fundamental advances involving gallium nitride-enabled arrays, which now provide significant benefits in a wide range of applications in the national security domain.
By combining complementary mindsets on the leading edges of electronic and radiofrequency device engineering, a pair of researchers in DARPA’s Young Faculty Award program have devised ultratiny, electronic switches that approximate inter-neuron communication. These highly adaptable nanoscale switches can toggle on and off so fast, and with such low loss, they could become the basis of not only computer and memory devices but also multi-function radiofrequency (RF) chips, which users might reprogram on the fly to behave first like a cell-phone’s signal emitter but then, say, as a collision-avoidance radar component or a local radio jammer.
Competition for scarce electromagnetic (EM) spectrum is increasing, driven by a growing military and civilian demand for connected devices. As the spectrum becomes more congested, the Department of Defense (DoD) will need better tools for managing the EM environment and for avoiding interference from competing signals. One recent DARPA-funded advance, an exceptionally high-speed analog-to-digital converter (ADC), represents a major step forward. The ADC could help ensure the uninterrupted operation of spectrum-dependent military capabilities, including communications and radar, in contested EM environments.