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By GCN Staff

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DARPA 'system on a chip' to broaden connectivity of troops

Researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency recently demonstrated a “system on a chip” (SoC), an all-silicon, microchip-sized wireless transmitter that military experts say will ultimately provide connectivity faster to more troops and at lower cost.

“What normally would require multiple circuit boards, separate metal shielded assemblies and numerous I/O cables, we can now miniaturize onto one silicon chip about half the size of an adult’s thumbnail,” said  DARPA program manager Dev Palmer.

Researchers at DARPA’s Efficient Linearized All-Silicon Transmitter ICs program were able to demonstrate performance of the chip at 94 GHz, the first time an all-silicon chip has achieved such a high frequency, according to DARPA.

Many existing compact, high-data-rate millimeter-wave wireless systems use integrated circuits (ICs) made with gallium arsenide or gallium nitride, which provide high power and efficiency but are costly to produce and difficult to integrate with electronics that provide most other radio functions, according to DARPA.

In contrast, silicon ICs are less expensive to make at high volume but until now have not shown the power and efficiency at the millimeter-wave frequencies used  in military applications, including radar and guidance systems.

The DARPA breakthrough will lead to “new design architectures for future military RF systems,” Palmer said.

The all-silicon SoC transmitter uses a digital power amplifier that dynamically adapts its performance to changing signal requirements, a key goal of transmitters designed to quickly deliver large amounts of data on the emerging, net-dependent battlefield.

“This SoC can support a range of modulation formats, so it’s possible to communicate to multiple systems using different waveforms from a single silicon chip,” Palmer said.

“Its efficient silicon construction will significantly reduce SWAP [size, weight, and power] requirements for millimeter-wave applications, including compact satellite communications ground terminals for frontline troops.”

Posted by GCN Staff on Jul 09, 2014 at 7:48 AM


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