New Chips Ease Operations In Electromagnetic Environs


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Desirable as these blazing sampling speeds are, they also pose challenges. The amount of data generated is staggering, reaching nearly a terabyte per second. This high data rate requires on-chip data-management circuitry that allows signals to be processed locally on the ADC, reducing the amount of data that must be communicated to neighboring electronics. This on-board digital signal processing burns quite a bit of power and also demands state-of-the-art transistors. The 32 nm SOI technology offered by Global Foundries, the only certified DoD supplier of this circuit technology, provided ACT with the leading-edge transistors needed to sample and process the RF spectrum without exceeding power or data-transfer limitations.

Upcoming ACT designs will go further. By using GlobalFoundries’ even more advanced 14 nm technology, ACT’s next generation of ADCs aim to reduce power requirements by an additional 50 percent and enable yet smaller and lighter systems that can sample even greater swaths of the spectrum.

These ongoing improvements in semiconductor-based components highlight the benefit of DARPA’s longstanding commercial partnerships with players who have mastered the upper limits of modern transistor technology, said Troy Olsson, manager of the ACT programs. “Our performers combined innovative designs with advanced fabrication facilities and techniques to create world-class technology,” Olsson said. “And we are already seeing exciting results that closely match our design expectations.”

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