Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyTagged Content List

Electronics and Microchips

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

Showing 10 results for Electronics + Sensors RSS
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.
DARPA launched the Microwave and Analog Front End Technology (MAFET) program in 1995 as a follow-on to the Millimeter Wave Monolithic Integrated Circuits (MIMIC) program, which began in 1987. MAFET aimed to significantly reduce non-recurring costs for microwave and millimeter-wave sensor systems for military applications.
State-of-the-art military sensors today rely on “active electronics” to detect vibration, light, sound or other signals. That means they constantly consume power, with much of that power and time spent processing what often turns out to be irrelevant data. This power consumption limits sensors’ useful lifetimes to a few weeks or months when operating from state-of-the-art batteries, and has slowed the development of new sensor technologies and capabilities. Moreover, the chronic need to redeploy power-depleted sensors is not only costly and time-consuming but also increases warfighter exposure to danger.
Many essential military capabilities—including autonomous navigation, chemical-biological sensing, precision targeting and communications—increasingly rely upon laser-scanning technologies such as LIDAR (think radar that uses light instead of radio waves). These technologies provide amazing high-resolution information at long ranges but have a common Achilles heel: They require mechanical assemblies to sweep the laser back and forth. These large, slow opto-mechanical systems are both temperature- and impact-sensitive and often cost tens of thousands of dollars each—all factors that limit widespread adoption of current technologies for military and commercial use.
See that black speck on the Lincoln’s penny-minted nostril? And on the right, notice another three of those specks comfortably framed by the eye of a needle? Those semiconductor chiplets, or “dielets” as DARPA Program Manager Kerry Bernstein calls them, could become Lilliputian electronic tamper-watching sentinels affixed to virtually every chip built into commercial and military systems.