Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyTagged Content List

Microchips and Components

Relating to miniaturized electronic circuitry and its components and features

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The general-purpose computer has remained the dominant computing architecture for the last 50 years, driven largely by the relentless pace of Moore’s Law. As this trajectory shows signs of slowing, however, it has become increasingly more challenging to achieve performance gains from generalized hardware, setting the stage for a resurgence in specialized architectures. Today’s specialized, application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) — hardware customized for a specific application — offer limited flexibility and are costly to design, fabricate, and program.
Over the past decade, DARPA’s investments in the advancement of Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology have helped enable the delivery of high power radio frequency (RF) signals at higher frequencies, bandwidths, and efficiencies. Today, however, a growing number of commercial and military components – from everyday smartphones to RF jammers – are generating a vast amount of RF signals, which is creating an increasingly crowded electromagnetic environment and a need to utilize higher operating frequencies – moving up to millimeter wave (mmW) frequencies
Next-generation intelligent systems supporting Department of Defense (DoD) applications like artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, shared spectrum communication, electronic warfare, and radar require processing efficiency that is orders of magnitude beyond what is available through current commercial electronics. Reaching the performance levels required by these DoD applications however will require developing highly complex system-on-chip (SoC) platforms that leverage the most advanced integrated circuit technologies.
Due to engineering limitations and cost constraints, the dynamics of the electronic industry are continually changing. Commercial companies increasingly recognize the need to differentiate their products through research in areas other than device scaling, such as new circuit architectures and computing algorithms.
The unrelenting progression of Moore's Law has created a steady cadence to ever-smaller transistors and more powerful chips, allowing billions of transistors to be integrated on a single system-on-chip (SoC). However, engineering productivity has not kept pace with Moore's Law, leading to prohibitive increases in development costs and team sizes for leading-edge SoC design. To help manage the complexity of SoC development, design reuse in the form of Intellectual Property (IP) modules has become the primary strategy.