Cryogenically Enabled Electronics Technologies for Mixed Signal Systems

This program seeks new approaches to achieving 100+ GHz devices, circuits, and signal processors in order to efficiently capture and process wideband RF signals. More specifically, the program supports work on superconducting devices and circuits, cryogenic photonics, and other thin film devices that work best (or only) at cryogenic temperatures and their integration into multi-functional, generic RF receiver systems.

  • The near term focus is on mixed signal circuits clocking above 40 GHz in receivers that select which signals to output based on real time digital processing
  • Signal de-interleaving/matched filtering may be realized by any method in any technology so long as it is exceptionally low power and low latency when applied to dense signal environments
  • Photonic proposals should emphasize operation in the few to 1 photon regime, not the continuous wave, high photon density mode which has been recently developed to mate at room temperature with CMOS based digital logic
  • The challenge of that is to understand how to utilize the relatively mature concepts from continuous wave photonics in the few photon context, without the signals being swamped by such issues as shot noise and photon disappearance due to imperfect waveguide confinement

Also sought are:

  • Significant improvements in multi-chip packaging and cooling technologies
  • Fast and ultra-low power magnetic memory
  • Basic research on the fundamental physics of phonons and quantum phenomena relevant to advanced RF sensors and cryo-memory

Within the processing arena, objectives also include:

  • Algorithms and hardware to do other forms of analog and digital signal processing such as digital beam-forming and noise shaping that improve the selectivity and reduce processing latency in RF receivers
  • Techniques to control amplitude and phase jitter throughout RF systems and suppress wideband co-site interference by over 40 dB

Research Concentration Areas

This program is focused on enabling receivers — described as ultra-wide band, high sensitivity, low complexity staring sensors that are dynamically software-defined — that result from using the most appropriate technology, with cryogenics explicitly allowed and valued for its inherently low noise.

  • Superconducting Josephson Junctions have held the digital switching speed record since 1998 and so are natural to consider for real time, high data rate, highly serial signal processing
  • Pulse-based photonic data transmission at room temperature can bypass the heat loading of electrical links
  • Especially sought are hybrid technologies that demonstrate the potential for savings in signal processing latency, and processor volume and power requirements
  • The goal is full spectral awareness on naval platforms capable of operating semi-autonomously

Research Challenges and Opportunities

  • Develop an evidence-based mechanistic understanding of the limitations of superconducting and photonic hybrid RF components at sub THz frequencies.
    • Develop complexity or quantum mechanically based phenomena that can be used to improve system accuracy and finesse
    • Create experimentally validated, nuanced measures of the impact of shot noise and probabilistic events (such as expressed by the grey zone of a balanced comparator) on high rate signal processing chains, including the signal to noise ratio one can achieve
  • Demonstrate enabling cryogenic receiver technologies, such as hybrid packaging that addresses explicit interface issues associated with conventional signal strengths, true time delay, and solid state photonic cooling.
    • High directivity, low noise, electrically-small antennas
    • Cryo-cooling innovations that offer > 5X efficiency gains at temperatures below 8K
    • Cable and cryo-packaging innovations for RF signals at >80 GHz that offer wide bandwidth and <1 dB insertion loss
  • Simultaneous achievement of high linearity, low noise, wide bandwidth and high energy efficiency are important.
  • Document feasibility of new concepts for supporting components - e.g., dense and fast memory, new sensors, electro-optic modulators and direct reception photon sensors - that can function down to < 10 attoJ/bit total energy consumption or 1Thz single photons at event rates above 1 GHz.
  • Develop new concepts for signal recognition — including analog, AI, deep learning and neuromorphic computing — that reduce the digital processing (and hence latency and power) required to bin signals as to their intent and functional importance.
  • Spiking mode systems are especially interesting.

Program Contact Information

Name: Dr. Deborah Van Vechten

Title: Program Officer

Department: Code 312

Email for Questions:

How to Submit

For detailed application and submission information for this research topic, please see our Funding Opportunities page and refer to broad agency announcement (BAA) No. N00014-20-S-B001.

  • Contracts: All white papers and full proposals for contracts must be submitted through FedConnect; instructions are included in the BAA.
  • Grants: All white papers for grants must be submitted through FedConnect, and full proposals for grants must be submitted through; instructions are included in the BAA.

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