MCNC-RDI wins DARPA grant for infrared sensing systems

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C., Oct. 11, 2004. MCNC Research & Development Institute, a North Carolina-based nonprofit research organization, announced today that it has been awarded Phase II in a research project to develop advanced interconnect technology for infrared detector systems to be used by the U.S. Department of Defense in high performance military and space surveillance applications.

This research contract supports the Vertically Interconnected Sensor Arrays (VISA) program of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Microsystems Technology Office. DARPA is the central research and development organization of the U.S. Department of Defense.

This research contract is a collaborative effort between MCNC-RDI and DRS Infrared Technologies. The primary objective is to develop three-dimensional (3-D) architectures and circuits that enable massively parallel signal processing for high resolution infrared focal plane arrays (FPAs) necessary to address future strategic and tactical systems.

MCNC-RDI was chosen by DARPA to develop 3-D interconnect technology that is a critical enabler for the integration of the FPAs with multiple layers of silicon read out integrated circuits (ICs). After 18 months of research and development, the joint project has reached Phase II, a significant milestone that proves the technology has achieved operability.

The 3-D interconnect technology provides for the integration of the detector arrays with multiple layers of ICs by means of insulated and metallized vias (vertical holes) etched through the body of the IC chips. The resulting multi-layer structure offers optimal short interconnect paths and enables significantly higher inter-layer bandwidths for more demanding signal processing requirements. Incorporating this unique 3-D technology will
ultimately improve the performance of the infrared sensing systems by significantly increasing processing capability and signal integrity.

"We are thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with DARPA and join forces with DRS on this important project," said Ken Williams, Ph.D., vice president of the Materials & Electronics Technologies Division at MCNC-RDI. "By achieving Phase II, our collaborative efforts with DRS have proven that this technology can work, and a true paradigm shift in the performance and operability of 3-D integration technology has been demonstrated. We are enthusiastic about the successful completion of this project and about the future potential and alternate applications for this technology."

MCNC-RDI's 3-D interconnect technology increases IC performance while reducing weight and volume. Devices featuring 3-D interconnect technology demonstrate improved processing speed, less power consumption, lower cost and a smaller footprint.

Throughout its history, MCNC-RDI has been recognized as a pioneer in microelectronics and microfabrication techniques. MCNC-RDI's research on vertical interconnect methods and proof of concepts has been conducted for over three years. Most recently, MCNC-RDI has produced vertical interconnects with diameters as small as four microns and up to 10:1 aspect ratios, establishing MCNC-RDI as a leader in this next-generation technology.

DARPA initially awarded MCNC-RDI the VISA project contract in 2003. Phase II began in July 2004 and will last approximately 18 months.

MCNC is a private, independent, non-profit corporation established in 1980 to advance technology-led economic development and job creation throughout North Carolina. MCNC-RDI develops new technologies through its own initiatives and as a research partner for businesses and the U.S. government, conducting advanced and applied research across a broad technology spectrum, including microsystems, flexible electronics, sensor development, signal electronics, wireless systems, microfabrication,
high-speed secure networks and grid computing. MCNC companies are located in North Carolina's Research Triangle Park. For more information, see www.mcnc.org.

RTI International has announced its intent to acquire MCNC-RDI's research groups. RTI is a non-profit research organization also located in Research Triangle Park, N.C. The acquisition is expected to be completed later this year. Following completion of the
acquisition, all research activities referenced in this announcement will continue with RTI International. For more information, see www.rti.org.

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