Research Programs from BAA - Electronics

1.0 Overview

Electronic components are recognized as key force multipliers in today's Army and will remain so for the foreseeable future. To maintain our technological advantage, the U.S. Army Research Office's Electronics Division seeks to support scientific and engineering endeavors in research areas that possess the potential to define new electronic capabilities or to enhance future electronic performance. The Electronic research sub-areas are Solid State Electronics; Optoelectronics; Electronic Sensing; Electromagnetics, Microwaves, and Power; and Terahertz Science and Technology.

1.1 Solid State Devices

This research area emphasizes efforts to establish a new and comprehensive base of knowledge for the electronic, photonic, acoustic and magnetic properties of solid-state materials, structures and devices. Functions such as very intelligent surveillance and target acquisition; command, control, and communications; electronic warfare; and reconnaissance, must be accomplished with the high data rates and real-time capability that are essential for these applications. To support the future U.S. Army, these systems will need to operate at much higher speeds and frequencies, have greatly increased functionality, and have much higher levels of integration than present day technology provides. Therefore, fundamental research in the area of Solid State Devices is the corner stone and an essential requirement in the development of these future systems for military defense.

To establish the needed science base for future Army battle-space capabilities, innovative research is sought in the general areas of; novel electronic materials for advanced devices, nanoscale processing and fabrication science, nano/molecular electronic science and technology, nanoscale physical modeling and advanced simulation, ultrafast electronics, advanced device concepts, mixed technologies (electronic, photonic, acoustic & magnetic), heterogenous devices and technologies, micromachined devices and ultralow-power technologies. Therefore, the program currently emphasizes fundamental research in, (1) Nanoscale Growth and Processing Science, (2) Nanoscale (Semiconductor) Electronics, (3) Molecular Electronics and (4) Advanced Device Concepts, with a focus towards identifying and overcoming existing scientific barriers. Important science and technological barriers include, but are not limited to, the discovery and implementation of new and revolutionary growth techniques for engineering materials and for mixing and matching diverse material systems; the development of novel processing, fabrication and self-assembly techniques for realizing effective integration of diverse materials and devices into ultra-dense and complex solid-state electronic systems; the establishment of a theoretical base of knowledge into conventional and non-traditional (molecular) nanoscale electronics for bridging the gap between today's microelectronics to the future where molecular devices will be integrated with nanoscale semiconductor devices and components; the development and implementation of accurate physical models and robust simulation tools for identifying novel ultra-small device concepts and complexly-coupled nanosystems and accurately predicting their behavior; the development of a comprehensive science base that will provide fundamental insights into quantum-confined structures with time dynamic, nonequilibrium, dissipative electronic processes that are imbedded in practical circuits with realistic interconnects; and the development of new and effective integration techniques for realizing complex heterogeneous devices (i.e., devices utilizing different materials and operating on different physical principals) and mixed technology systems.

Technical Point of Contact: Dr. William Clark,, 919-549-4314.

1.2 Optoelectronics

Research in this subarea includes novel semiconductor structures, processing techniques, and integrated optical components. The generation, guidance, and control of UV/optical/infrared (IR) signals in both semiconductor and dielectric materials are of interest. The Army has semiconductor laser research opportunities based on quantum dot and quantum well semiconductor materials operating in the eye-safe (>1.55), 3 5, 8 12, and 18-24 microns regions for various applications, such as ladar, IR countermeasures, and free space/integrated data links. Crystalline and amorphous wide bandgap semiconductor materials are of interest for lasers and detectors operating in the ultra-violet and visible regime. Research is necessary in semiconductor materials growth and device processing to improve the efficiency and reliability of the output of devices at these wavelengths.

High performance devices and components will be optimized for applications including high-data-rate optical networks. Interfacing of optoelectronic devices with electronic processors will be investigated for full utilization of available bandwidth. Electro-optic components will be studied for use in guided wave data links for interconnections and optoelectronic integration, all requirements for high speed full situational awareness. Optical interconnect components are needed in guided-wave data links for computer interconnection and in free-space links for optical switching and processing. For optical processing of images, research leading to two-dimensional (2-D) arrays of surface-emitting lasers is necessary. Research addressing efficient, novel optical components, such as optical micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMs) is needed. Emitters and architectures for novel display and processing of battlefield imagery are important.

Technical Point of Contact: Dr. Michael Gerhold,, (919) 549-4357.

1.3 Electronic Sensing

The ultimate goal of Army sensing is 100% situational awareness to include day/night, all weather, non-line-of-sight and through natural and man-made obstructions for sensing of vehicles, personnel, weapons, chemical and biological threats, projectiles, explosives, landmines, IEDs, and motion. Sensing technologies of interest to this research sub-area currently include acoustic; seismic; passive electromagnetic; magnetic, hyperspectral, and infrared. Novel techniques that enhance the stimulus-response characteristics of nano-structures and semiconductor devices are of interest. Other innovative sensors that meet an Army need are also welcome, however chemical, biological, and radar sensing techniques are generally funded through other sub-areas as is image processing.

Novel infrared or multispectral detectors and structures are of particular interest. Efforts are sought that raise the operating temperature and reduce the cost of "cooled," high performance, infrared detectors, as well as, efforts that increase performance of "uncooled" infrared detectors. Research opportunities include components based on quantum confined devices and semiconductor materials operating in the infrared 1-24 microns regions. Also of interest is the ultra-violet spectral region. In both regions, fundamental studies involving growth, defects, interfaces, substrates, doping, and other electronic characteristics will be considered.

Technical Point of Contact: Dr. William Clark,, 919-549-4314.

1.4 Electromagnetics, Microwaves, and Power

Army Transformation is driving the need for basic research supporting mobile, multifunctional, reliable, and high-performance communications and sensor systems. This research falls into the following general technical areas: computational electromagnetics, antennas, RF and microwave component development, RF and microwave circuit integration, landmine/UXO/IED detection, energy-efficient high-frequency components and circuits, and high-power devices for power distribution and control.

Problems of interest in computational electromagnetics can be divided into two regimes: device, circuit, package, and antenna modeling at short length scales, and radio wave propagation modeling at large length scales.

Advanced models and simulations tools must be developed to accurately predict device, circuit, package, antenna, and system performance. Of special interest are physically-based models that enable the simulation of integrated circuits and modules as the levels of integration increase and as the circuits become denser and more complex. The coupling of radiation into and out of complex structures is a problem of special interest. New analysis concepts, techniques, and methodologies are needed with improvements in algorithm speed and efficiency including model order reduction, design for inherently low computational dispersion, and hardware acceleration. The human interface for these tools should simplify the problem setup, data presentation and analysis process, possibly including knowledge-based tools enabling the integration of multiple computational engines.

Propagation effects have a major impact on communications and radar systems. Research is sought leading to innovative and efficient techniques for near-real-time propagation modeling, capable of point-to-point calculations over paths that include urban, rural, and foliated environments with natural and man-made structures including tunnels, validated with appropriate experimental data, with effective interactivity and information delivery to the user.

Innovative approaches are needed to increase the performance and decrease the size and signature of tactical antennas operating from the HF to W frequency bands. Novel and new materials, configurations, and fabrication techniques for multifrequency, multiband operation are of interest. This will require fast frequency switching circuits and techniques for tunable antennas that minimize nonlinear effects over a wide band of frequencies. Radically innovative approaches are needed to increase the performance and reduce the cost of electronically steerable apertures (ESA), including the antenna elements and ancillary components. Ultimately, completely new approaches are sought for a new class of antenna elements that are efficient, point sensors and radiators of the vector electromagnetic fields with little or no mutual coupling for highly oversampled antenna arrays giving improved direction finding capabilities and radiation pattern control.

The electronic systems of the future will operate in an increasingly dynamic and complex spectral environment. This drives the need for innovative concepts that will produce devices and components with extremely high dynamic range, extremely wide instantaneous bandwidth, extremely high linearity, and multi-channel phase tracking. These requirements apply to active devices such as power amplifiers and low-noise amplifiers, as well as to passive components such as filters, mixers, couplers, etc. Because these devices and components will be used in mobile systems and because energy storage technology has not kept pace with developments in electronic technologies, the active components must also be energy efficient with low instantaneous peak power requirements and the passive components must have low losses. Optimal partitioning between digital and analog technology combined with new circuit topologies will be critical.

Integration technologies provide millimeter-wave/microwave circuits at small size, lightweight, low cost, and high reliability. Novel techniques for integrating circuits are of special interest at higher frequencies in order to overcome loss, coupling, and spurious radiation problems. Hybrid techniques that combine high performance from component optimization with low fabrication cost due to compatibility with high volume production processes are needed. Fabrication and integration techniques including dense 3-D and heterogeneous integration must be developed that give the system designer access to transmission lines with constant impedance over wide frequency range, inter-layer high-frequency and optical interconnect, hermetic self-packaging, and ease of assembly and handling. Thermal/mechanical effects must be analyzed and minimized. Innovative approaches such as micromachining will provide significant advantages for circuit integration and the production and integration of passive components, including integrated antennas.

Innovative electromagnetic and hybrid approaches are needed for the detection of landmines, unexploded ordnance, and improvised explosive devices. Radar, acoustic electromagnetic induction, gravitometers, nuclear and infrared techniques have been applied in traditional approaches. Innovations on the traditional approaches and hybrid combinations with potential improvements in usability and probability of detection with significant reduction in false alarm rate are of interest to this program.

Research on new and better ways to create and manage power for Army electronic components and systems will reduce the logistics burden on the warfighter. This comprises novel power generation and distribution concepts including biomimetics, distributed generation, and nuclear batteries. It also includes renewable power strategies such as photovoltaics and energy harvesting, but does not include chemical battery or fuel cell technology. Research into the design of low peak power, highly efficient circuits and protocols for communications, radar transmitters, unattended ground sensors, and soldier electronics is of interest, as is research on high power management systems for all-electric vehicles, directed energy systems, and high energy lasers.

Technical Point of Contact: Dr. William Clark,, 919-549-4314.

1.5 Terahertz Science & Technology

This research area emphasizes efforts to establish a new scientific foundation for understanding and utilizing terahertz (THz) frequency sensing as a new tool for the detection, identification and characterization of chemical and biological (CB) agents on the battlefield.  This research area also includes a parallel thrust to identify and develop advanced device concepts that are suitable for realizing THz-frequency sensors and sensor systems that are militarily useful (i.e., compact, robust, cost effect, etc.) in realistic battlefield scenarios.

To establish the needed science and technology base for future Army battle-space capabilities, innovative research is sought in the general areas of THz frequency sensing science and advanced device concepts that facilitate robust functionality at frequencies within the submillimeter-wave or THz frequency regimes (i.e., the part of the electromagnetic spectrum between approximately 1 mm (300 GHz) and 100 μm (3 THz).  To improve device performance, the Army is interested in new device and circuit concepts, including quantum transport devices such as resonant tunneling structures, and quantum-transition devices in which photon emission can occur through intersubband transitions between quasi-bound states.  It also includes traditional devices with revolutionary circuit and packaging techniques to improve performance.  The components of particular interest are electrically-driven room-temperature sources, cw or pulsed, operating between ~ 0.3 and 3 THz.  Innovative and novel methodologies should be explored until an effective approach is discovered or developed. Here, the development of efficient sources and integrated semiconductor-based components and systems is a priority.

In addition, a key application of interest for terahertz and ultrafast electronics is battlefield remote sensing of biological agents.  Another second class of application is point detection of biological/chemical agents and explosives, such as RDX and TNT that also interact with THz radiation via low-frequency vibrations and rotational modes. Rapid, unambiguous identification of chemical agents, precursors, and degradation products is required in many areas of the DoD including treaty verification and counter-terrorism.  The ultra-high resolution offered by THz spectroscopy may provide this rapid identification even when the substance is in a complex mixture.  A final, and possibly even more far-reaching application of THz electronics, is in the development of concepts for extending ultra-wideband sensing and communications.  Indeed, the fusion of an advanced THz-frequency sensing capability with conventional sensor-network communications and high-speed data processing has the potential for significantly enhancing the network-centric capability of the Army's Future Combat System of Systems (FCSS) concept. Here, THz electronics will collectively impact spectroscopic sensing, radiometric imaging and data transmission/ processing.  Furthermore, commercial local-area-wireless networks can already be envisioned at frequencies as high as 400 GHz, therefore, THz electronics has a strong duel use potential and the potential for significantly impacting the high-frequency electronics of the future.

Technical Point of Contact: Dr. William Clark,, 919-549-4314.

1.6 Power Electronics

The goal of Power Electronics is to reduce the logistics burden on the warfighter through research and development into new and better ways to manage and create power for Army electronic components and systems. The research area includes the design of low peak power, highly efficient circuits and protocols for communications, radar transmitters, unattended ground sensors, and Soldier electronics. It also involves high power management systems for all electric vehicles, directed energy systems, and high energy lasers. It involves novel power generation and distribution concepts including biomimetics, distributed generation, and nuclear batteries. It also includes renewable power strategies such as photovoltaics and energy harvesting, but does not include chemical battery or fuel cell technology.

Technical Point of Contact: Dr. William Clark, e-mail:, 919-549-4314.


Last Update / Reviewed: January 14, 2013