Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyTagged Content List

Information Microsystems

Relating to computer and other digital electronic systems

Showing 12 results for Microsystems + Sensors RSS
Dr. Young-Kai Chen joined DARPA as a Program Manager in the Microsystems Technology Office (MTO) in September 2017. His research interests include the exploration of innovative technology frontiers in the areas of semiconductor optoelectronic materials, devices, integrated circuits, and advanced system applications for smart sensors, secure broadband wireless, and photonic links.
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 many years beginning in 1994, DARPA provided substantial funding in the then emergent arena of micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMs). With lineage in microelectronics technology, MEMs researchers cleverly adapted standard semiconductor-fabrication methods to fabricate miniature mechanical structures such as flexible membranes, cantilevers, and even trains of interdigitated gears, and integrated these with electronics to create a menagerie of MEM systems. Among the target deliverables for the DoD were inertial navigation devices for smartening up weapons and tracking soldiers, miniaturized “laboratories on a chip” for such uses as detecting biological weapons in the field, and optical switches and displays. DARPA’s patient support is widely credited with adding consequential momentum to the field of MEMs, which since has blossomed into a multi-billion dollar market in the military and civilian sectors.
Find a way to replace a large, heavy and expensive technology with an equivalent one that’s a lot smaller, lighter and cheaper and you have a shot at turning a boutique technology into a world changer. Think of the room-sized computers of the 1940s that now are outpowered by the run-of-the-mill central processing unit in laptop computers. Or the miniaturized GPS components that contribute geolocation smartness in cell phones. DARPA program manager Joshua Conway has another shrinking act in mind: packing the light-catching powers of bulky lens-filled telescopes onto flat, semiconductor wafers that are saucer-sized or smaller, featherweight and cheap to make.
Picture a sensor pixel about the size of a red blood cell. Now envision a million of these pixels—a megapixel’s worth—in an array that covers a thumbnail. Take one more mental trip: dive down onto the surface of the semiconductor hosting all of these pixels and marvel at each pixel’s associated tech-mesh of more than 1,000 integrated transistors, which provide each and every pixel with a tiny reprogrammable brain of its own. That is the vision for DARPA’s new Reconfigurable Imaging (ReImagine) program.