Military researchers ask industry for advanced microelectronics for machine autonomy and sensor processing

April 8, 2022
MTO has helped create compact microelectronics components such as microprocessors, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), and photonic devices.

ARLINGTON, Va. – U.S. military microelectronics experts are reaching out to industry for enabling technologies in four areas: embedded microsystem intelligence and localized processing; next-generation front-end component technologies for electromagnetic spectrum dominance; microsystem integration for increased functional density and security; and disruptive defense microsystem applications.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Microsystems Technology Office (MTO) have released a broad-agency announcement (HR001122S0030) for revolutionary research ideas for these topics, which sometimes are not addressed by MTO programs or solicitations.

Since its inception in 1991, MTO has helped create and prevent strategic surprise through investments in compact microelectronics components such as microprocessors, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), and photonic devices.

These technologies have led to applications in wide-band-gap materials, phased array radars, high-energy laser weapons, and infrared imaging.

Related: Embedded computing sensor and signal processing meets the SWaP test

MTO seeks to develop high-risk, high-reward technologies that help prevent strategic surprise, secure U.S. military technological superiority, and address complex national security threats.

Embedded microsystem intelligence and localized processing seeks to develop self-tuning, self-optimizing, and mission reconfigurable systems with low size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP-C).

This includes advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning processors, graphic processing units (GPUs), machine autonomy, and other special-purpose computer technologies for sensors for the tactical edge and microsystems capable of learning. One area of particular interest is improved cognitive electronic warfare (EW).

Next-generation front-end component technologies for electromagnetic spectrum dominance involves military command, control, communications, computing, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) and EW systems. This involves material, device, and circuit approaches that provide leap-ahead performance in sensing and modulation for RF, active and passive photonic, electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR), and magnetic-field applications.

Related: DARPA eyes microelectronics optical interconnects for high-performance embedded computing boards

MTO experts also are pursuing alternatives to large, costly optical and RF systems such as new fabrication technologies and next-generation positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) technologies.

Microsystem integration for increased functional density and security involves 3D heterogeneous integration at multiple length scales. Fine-scale integration will bridge the technical gap between traditional assembly technology and the lithography-defined back-end-of-the-line dense interconnects, and complex circuits and systems-on-chip (SoC).

Potential applications include next-generation electronic design automation (EDA) tools, new approaches ensure secure and trusted microsystems, and microsystem thermal management technologies.

Disruptive defense microsystem applications seeks to identify and demonstrate innovative microsystems component technologies, and hasten the adoption of advanced microsystem technologies and enable future military C4ISR, EW, and directed energy systems for electromagnetic warfare.

Related: Artificial intelligence and machine learning for unmanned vehicles

Topics of interest include advanced RF and EO/IR filters and related front-end components; imaging systems; photonic and electronic interconnects; atomic physics; chip-scale sensors; cold-atom microsystem component technologies; cognitive and advanced EW; compound semiconductor-based electronics; architectures and algorithms for next-generation artificial intelligence; directed energy component technologies; electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) technologies; electronics and micro sensors for harsh environments; and energy-efficient computing and advanced signal and sensor processing.

Also of interest are hardware assurance, reliability, and validation; heterogeneous integration technologies; high-energy laser and microwave technologies; low power electronics; low temperature electronics; low-volume microsystems manufacturing and assembly; materials for next-generation microelectronics; metrology and manufacturing tools for multi-chip packaging; microelectromechanical system technology; microsystem design; microsystems for PNT and RF and optical transceivers; mixed-signal electronics; tools for virtual prototyping; photonic devices; processing for imaging and spectral recognition; signal processing algorithms to reduce hardware requirements; and thermal management of microsystems.

Companies interested should upload abstracts no later than 6 Jan. 2024, and proposals no later than 16 March 2024 to the DARPA BAA website at

Email questions or concerns to DARPA's Mark Rosker at [email protected]. More information is online at

About the Author

John Keller | Editor-in-Chief

John Keller is the Editor-in-Chief, Military & Aerospace Electronics Magazine--provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronics and optoelectronic technologies in military, space and commercial aviation applications. John has been a member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since 1989 and chief editor since 1995.

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