DARPA, Northrop taking chip speed into terahertz range

Integrated circuit operating at 0.67 THz doubles the speed of previous fastest chip

The military could soon be taking a giant leap forward with its communications networks.

Northrop Grumman, under a contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Terahertz Electronics program, has developed a new Terahertz Monolithic Integrated Circuit that more than doubles the frequency of the previously reported fastest integrated circuit.

Speaking at the recent Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' (IEEE) International Microwave Symposium in Anaheim, Calif., William Deal, THz Electronics program manager for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector, said that "a variety of applications exist at these frequencies. These devices could double the bandwidth, or information carrying capacity, for future military communications networks. TMIC amplifiers will enable more sensitive radar and produce sensors with highly improved resolution.”

Deal said the TMIC amplifier, developed at the company's Simon Ramo Microelectronics Center, is the first of its kind operating at 0.67 THz, or 670 billion cycles per second.

The circuit was developed under the auspices of DARPA's Terahertz Electronics program, whose goal is to develop device and integration technologies for electronic circuits operating at frequencies exceeding 1.0 THz. Managed by DARPA's Microsystems Technology Office, the program focuses on terahertz high-power amplifier modules and terahertz transistor electronics.

"The success of the THz Electronics program will lead to revolutionary applications such as THz imaging systems, sub-mm-wave ultra-wideband ultra-high-capacity communication links, and sub-mm-wave single-chip widely tunable synthesizers for explosive detection spectroscopy," said John Albrecht, THz Electronics program manager for DARPA.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

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