DARPA asks industry to develop G-band RF and microwave enabling technologies for communications and sensing

Oct. 4, 2021
Experts from DARPA Microsystems Technology Office want industry to develop RF and microwave MMICs and receive arrays able to operate at 110 to 300 GHz.

ARLINGTON, Va. – U.S. military researchers are asking industry to develop fabrication and integration technologies to create compact, high-performance RF and microwave electronics to enable communications and sensing systems at G-band frequencies.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., issued a broad agency announcement (HR001121S0042) on Thursday for the Electronics For G-Band Arrays (ELGAR) project.

Experts from the DARPA Microsystems Technology Office want industry to develop monolithic microwave integrated circuits (MMICs) and receive array front-end test articles able to operate in the sub-terahertz G-band frequency range between 110 and 300 GHz for applications like radio astronomy, remote security sensing, and telecommunications.

The growing, insatiable thirst for information in military and commercial applications is driving RF and microwave technologies towards increasingly higher data rates and wider bandwidths of operation. This drives systems designs higher operating frequencies to support large channel bandwidths.

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Today’s 5G cellular networks, for example, operate at 6 GHz and below, and researchers are considering future 5G communications at millimeter wave frequencies from 24.25 GHz to 52.60 GHz. 6G will push frequencies even higher for large-channel bandwidths and high-channel capacities.

The upper millimeter-wave G band of 110 to 300 GHz represents an attractive, underused portion of the electromagnetic spectrum for high-rate data communications -- particularly above 200 GHz, where atmospheric absorption is low.

Today, however, RF electronics adequate to support operation in this frequency band does not yet exist -- particularly for size, weight, and power (SWaP)-constrained applications. The efficiency of G-band electronics today is poor, and must be addressed to make G-band systems viable.

RF and microwave experts can build G-band communications arrays with silicon-based RF integrated circuits or with III-V compound semiconductor MMICs. Each approach has advantages and limitations.

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Through significant investment in programs such as Sub-millimeter Wave Imaging Focal-plane Technology (SWIFT), Terahertz (THz) Electronics, and Nitride Electronic NeXt-Generation Technology (NEXT), DARPA has developed III-V transistor technologies in indium phosphide and gallium nitride that can overcome the gain and breakdown voltage limitations of silicon- based transistors at G-band.

DARPA is interested in heterogeneous integration approaches that result in transmit and receive circuit compactness that enable a revolutionary increase in power density and power efficiency of MMICs and phased arrays at G-band.

The ELGAR program seeks to develop integration technologies to implement demonstration and validation circuits and test articles including compact, high-efficiency G-band power amplifier MMICs and transmit and receive array front-end test articles that operate at 220 GHz.

DARPA anticipates that the most challenging performance aspects of these MMICs and array test articles will be achieving 30 percent power amplifier power-added efficiencies, and more than 34 Watts per square centimeter transmit array power density and 24 percent transmit array efficiency at the 220 GHz operating frequency.

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DARPA will brief industry on details of the ELGAR program in virtual meetings on Tuesday 12 Oct. 2021. Register for the online briefings no later than Wednesday 6 Oct. 2021 online at https://web.cvent.com/event/8afdda61-6546-4941-882c-a4a43a0505c5/summary. Email questions about the briefings to [email protected]. More information on the proposers day is online at https://sam.gov/opp/d5822e3694ff44299174756977e8ea9c/view.

Companies interested should upload abstracts to the DARPA BAA website no later than 29 Oct. 2021 at https://baa.darpa.mil. Upload full proposals no later than 13 Dec. 2021 at https://baa.darpa.mil. The project should begin by May 2022.

More information is online at https://sam.gov/opp/e4acf53435144c52906d2c19f0210586/view.

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