Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyTagged Content List

Size, Weight and Power Constraints

Making technologies smaller, lighter and more power-efficient to increase military effectiveness

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The explosive growth in mobile and telecommunication markets has pushed the semiconductor industry toward integration of digital, analog, and mixed-signal blocks into system-on-chip (SoC) solutions. Advanced silicon (Si) complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) technology has enabled this integration, but has also led to a rise in costs associated with design and processing. Driven by aggressive digital CMOS scaling for high-volume products, Intellectual Property (IP) reuse has emerged as a tool to help lower design costs associated with advanced SoCs.
Dominance of the radio frequency (RF) spectrum is critical to successful U.S. military operations. Today, we do this using discrete radar, electronic warfare (EW), and communication payloads that are separately designed, procured, and integrated on platforms. These payloads typically use dedicated apertures, are realized with tightly coupled hardware and software, and are not well-coordinated in their use of spectrum. This rigid and constrained approach makes it difficult and time-consuming to adopt new technology, adapt to rapidly changing adversary threats, maneuver functions effectively in spectrum, and create comprehensive compact RF systems.
Complex Defense systems, such as RADAR, communications, imaging and sensing systems rely on a wide variety of microsystems devices and materials. These diverse devices and materials typically require different substrates and different processing technologies, preventing the integration of these devices into single fabrication process flows. Thus, integration of these device technologies has historically occurred only at the chip-to-chip level, which introduces significant bandwidth and latency-related performance limitations on these systems, as well as increased size, weight, power, and packaging/assembly costs as compared to microsystems fully integrated on a single chip.
Next-generation military microsystems in areas such as radar, guidance and high-data-rate communications will require advances in integrated circuit (IC) technology. The technical goal of the Efficient Linearized All-Silicon Transmitter ICs (ELASTx) program, now in its final states, has been to develop monolithic, high power-added-efficiency (PAE), high-linearity, millimeter-wave, silicon-based transmitter ICs.
In counterinsurgent, counter-terror campaigns, risks associated with conventional weapons in combat operations can severely limit their use and effectiveness, particularly in urban environments. These risks are largely associated with challenges posed by confining intended effects to adversary combatants and forces.