Advanced Systems Technology Mems device
Advanced Microsystems
platforms-on-a-chip

SPC supports its customers in the development of pioneering research in integrated microsystems as "platforms-on-a-chip" to enable revolutionary performance and functionality for future DoD systems. The core functionality of an integrated microsystem is the ability to sense, process, and act on data

Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS)
Mems chipThe Microelectromechanical Systems’ focus area applies the advantages of miniaturization, multiple components, and integrated microelectronics to the design and construction of integrated electromechanical and electro-chemical mechanical systems. Specifically, programs within this thrust area aim to address issues ranging from the scaling of devices and physical forces to new organization and control strategies for distributed, high-density arrays of sensor and actuator elements. The MEMS thrust has three principal objectives: the realization of advanced devices and systems concepts, the development and insertion of MEMS into DoD systems, and the creation of support and access technologies to catalyze a MEMS technology infrastructure.

Nano-Electro Mechanical Systems (NEMS)
laser etchingThe DoD has a continuing need for energy efficient computing, while continuing to reduce size, weight, and power associated with cooling DoD electronics platforms. The Nano-Electro Mechanical Systems program seeks to develop a nano-electro mechanical switch technology that demonstrates switching voltages of 1-10 volts, and switching times in the order of 1-100 nanoseconds. This technology is made possible through a diverse range of nanofabrication techniques, an understanding of material science at nanoscale, contact nanomechanics, and process integration challenges with modern electronic device fabrication processes. By marrying solid-state transistor technology with nanoscale mechanical switches/relays, NEMS aims at a digital logic technology in which on-current is controlled by the transistor and off-current is determined by the NEMS switch, nearly eliminating leakage power in circuits. The switches have the potential to realize all-mechanical computing for highly radiation-resistant and wide-temperature, range-of-operation computers. Low turn-on voltages and fast switching times will be implemented so the technology will be compatible with the voltage and switching times required for high performance digital electronics, yet will still be able to operate at a much lower power level, reducing required battery and cooling volume. Since NEMS has the potential to operate at temperatures of 600-1,000°C, the technology could enable computers that operate intentionally at high temperatures to save energy and improve efficiency.

Micro-Technology for Positioning, Navigation and Timing (Micro-PNT)
pnt_chip For decades, Global Positioning System (GPS) technology has been incorporated into munitions to meet rigid requirements for guidance and navigation. As a result, a substantial number of DoD weapons systems are dependent on GPS data to provide accurate position, direction of motion, and time information while in flight. This dependency creates a critical vulnerability for many U.S. munitions systems in engagements where the intended targets are either equipped with high-power jammers or the GPS constellation is compromised.

The goal of the Micro-Technology for Positioning, Navigation and Timing (Micro-PNT) program is to develop technology for self-contained, chip-scale inertial navigation and precision guidance. Size, weight, and power are key concerns in the overall system design of guided munitions. Breakthroughs in microfabrication techniques may allow for the development of a single package containing all the necessary devices (clocks, accelerometers, gyroscopes and calibration stages) incorporated into a small (8 mm3) and low-power (1 W) timing and inertial measurement unit. On-chip calibration should allow for constant internal error correction to reduce drift and thereby enable more accurate devices. Trending away from ultra-low drift sensors to a self-calibration approach will allow revolutionary breakthroughs in technology for positioning, navigation, and timing.

In January 2010, DARPA launched a coordinated effort focused on the development of microtechnology specifically addressing the challenges associated with miniaturization of high-precision clocks and inertial instruments. The program, Micro-PNT is comprised of four thrust areas: Clocks, Inertial Sensors, Microscale Integration, and Test & Evaluation. Each of these thrust areas is made up of various efforts exploring new fabrication techniques, deep integration, and on-chip self-calibration, all hand-in-hand with the development of “plug-and-test” architectures.

The developments consider a number of operational scenarios, ranging from dismounted-soldier navigation to navigation, guidance, and control (NG&C) of Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs), Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs), and guided missiles. The new Micro-PNT initiatives seek to increase the dynamic range of inertial sensors; reduce the long-term drift in clocks and inertial sensors; develop ultra-small chips providing position, orientation, and time information; and provide a universal and flexible platform for the test and evaluation of components developed within the comprehensive Micro-PNT program.

Reliable Neural-Interface Technology (RE-NET)
chip on a pennyResearch and development of neural prostheses based on stimulation, such as cochlear implants, has led to clinically-reliable and publicly-accepted products that have restored lost functions to a large number of patients. Although prostheses based on recording neural activity hold great promise and have high relevance to the DoD, there are two fundamental and well-known obstacles that are preventing their successful transition to clinical use. Both obstacles deal with reliability. First, miniature and portable neural machine interfaces cannot reliably obtain accurate information from neural tissue over a period of decades. Second, prosthesis systems cannot reliably use measured signals to control the prostheses with high speed and resolution.

DARPA is interested in addressing the specific fundamental challenges preventing clinical deployment of Reliable Neural-Interface Technology (RE-NET), facilitating its potential to enhance the recovery of injured service members and assist them in returning to active duty. Program developments will impact the broad community of patients with medical amputations, spinal cord injuries, and neurological diseases.

Thermal Management Technologies (TMT)
micro heat conversionSignificant enhancements in fundamental device materials, technologies, and system integration have led to rapid increases in the total power consumption of DoD systems. In many cases, power consumption has increased while system size has decreased, leading to an even greater problem with heat density. Thermal management of DoD systems often imposes the main obstacle to further enhancements. The overarching goal of the DARPA Thermal Management Technologies (TMT) program is to explore and optimize new nano-structured materials and other recent advances for use in thermal management systems. Research in this area is expected to improve thermal resistance barriers at all layers of all DoD systems. At the completion of the program, targeted insertions of specific TMT structures into DoD platforms will lead to further developments.