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 Low Cost Thermal Imager - Manufacturing (LCTI-M) program seeks to enable widespread use of infrared imaging (IR) technology by individual warfighters, with a special focus on affordability and ease of use for dismounted soldiers and individual intelligence personnel, for whom situational awareness and instant sharing of information is critical. IR imaging has the capability to “see” through obscurants, providing valuable information even in environments with severely degraded visibility. Low-cost infrared cameras would empower each warfighter with this essential capability and could open the way to new tactical procedures that demand a common view of the battlefield.
The Magnetic Miniaturized and Monolithically Integrated Components (M3IC) program aims to integrate magnetic components onto semiconductor materials, improving the size and functionality of electromagnetic (EM) systems for communications, radar, and electronic warfare (EW). Current EM systems use magnetic components such as circulators, inductors, and isolators, but these are bulky and cannot be integrated with miniaturized electronic circuitry.
Imaging, radar, spectroscopy, and communications systems that operate in the millimeter-wave (MMW) and sub-MMW bands of the electromagnetic spectrum have been difficult to develop because of technical challenges associated with generating, detecting, processing and radiating the high-frequency signals associated with these wavelengths.
Conventional military radio frequency (RF) antenna systems typically employ coaxial cable as the signal conduit between the aperture and the transmit/receive electronics. For long cable lengths, high RF frequencies and wide bandwidths, the cable itself is a key limiter of signal fidelity and link efficiency. Coaxial cable bundles are also large and heavy, a critical drawback for mobile platforms. Photonic technologies, however, may provide low loss, reduced size and weight, immunity to electromagnetic interference, broad bandwidth and overall ability to remote antennas over distances not possible with conventional electronic approaches.
The low cost of digital imaging devices has allowed them to become ubiquitous consumer products. This low cost is made possible by leveraging a mature complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) processing infrastructure and the ability to fabricate complete focal plane arrays (FPAs) at the wafer scale. A similar trend is occurring at a smaller scale with thermal imaging technologies. Microbolometers that are sensitive in the LWIR spectrum are also manufactured at the wafer scale and the resulting cost reduction is enabling thermal imagers at consumer-grade price points.