Core Technology and Capabilities

Research and development activity in Advanced Technology focuses on the invention of new device concepts, the practical realization of those devices, and their integration into one-of-a-kind demonstration systems. Historically, those devices were based primarily on solid-state electronic or electro-optical technologies, but recent work is highly multidisciplinary and increasingly exploits biotechnology and innovative chemistry. An active long-term research portfolio includes work on engineering living cells to make high-performance bioagent detectors, exploring the fundamentals of quantum information science, and assessing the potential for carbon-based electronics that use graphene sheets.

Our scientists and engineers execute a well-funded research portfolio that balances breakthrough R&D in core areas with innovative prototypes that enable advanced systems for the Laboratory’s mission areas. The figure below illustrates the connections between these activities. For example, research in compound semiconductors and silicon processing supports an array of advanced imagers that are in use in satellites, airborne sensors, and ground-based telescopes. These systems support national security, as well as NASA and other scientific communities.

Core Technologies that support Lincoln Laboratory Core technologies (such as RF and lasers) support Lincoln Laboratory mission areas and are underpinned by sustained research in core scientific areas. (Click for larger view.)


This highly interdisciplinary work leverages solid-state electronic and electro-optical technologies, innovative chemistry, materials science, and advanced RF technology.  Expertise in these areas is utilized to develop unique components and subsystems in several core technology areas:

  • Advanced Imagers: The division develops world-class detectors and astronomy-grade imaging focal planes, including high-sensitivity and high-pixel-count imagers, curved focal plane imagers, single-photon detector arrays, superconducting nanowire single-photon detectors, digital focal plane arrays (DFPAs), and novel readout integrated circuits (ROICs). Our team benefits from deep technical expertise and modern facilities supporting both silicon- and compound-semiconductor fabrication.

  • Lasers: A large team is working on state-of-the-art lasers, including diode, fiber, cryogenic, and quantum cascade coherent sources. Additionally, the division has significant expertise in beam combining individual lasers for high power and brightness. Applications include sources for high-energy laser systems and transmitters for ladar sensors and optical communications.

  • RF Systems and Components: Engineering research ranges from novel antenna elements and antenna arrays, to transmitters, receivers, and small-form-factor RF electronic devices. RF application areas span highly integrated transceivers with low size, weight, and power (SWaP); wideband compressive receivers; low-power communications systems; RF integrated circuits; and low-cost tile-based antenna arrays. These systems work across the RF spectrum, from high-frequency to millimeter wave. 
  • Advanced Computation: This work is focused on advanced hardware. Current efforts include silicon integrated circuits exploiting 3D integration and subthreshold technologies for unique low-power field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs); cryogenic CMOS approaches for high-rate, low-power computation; and novel anti-tamper technology. More basic research is under way in quantum information systems, including superconducting qubits, trapped-ion qubits, and qubit control electronics.

  • Microsystems: This area is enabled by a wide set of capabilities: synthetic material–based optical systems; microstructure components, including novel optical retroreflectors; microfluidics systems; novel position, navigation, and timing components; and unique radiation detection sensors. Several projects are developing chemical sensing technology with devices and systems for proximity and standoff detection of trace, vapor, and bulk materials. There is also work in proximity detection of biological agents and aerosols. 

Microelectronics Laboratory

The Laboratory's Microelectronics Laboratory (ML) is a state-of-the-art semiconductor research and fabrication facility that is unique among federal laboratories. For more information, click here.

Microelectronics Laboratory The Microelectronics Laboratory is a 70,000-square- feet facility. Inside is a production-class 90-nm CMOS tool set for fabricating advanced CMOS, imagers, and superconducting circuits on 200-mm-diameter wafers.



Compound Semiconductor Laboratory

The Compound Semiconductor Laboratory (CSL) contains a complete set of tools needed to grow, fabricate, and test advanced optoelectronic devices:
  • Epitaxial growth capabilities include three organometallic vapor-phase-epitaxy (OMVPE) systems, three molecular-beam expitaxy (MBE) systems, and associated metrology
  • The fabrication facility is independent of the silicon-based ML and contains photolithography, wet stations, plasma processing, thin-film deposition, and metrology
  • Examples of chips produced in CSL include diode laser arrays, short-wave infrared avalanche photodiodes operating in Geiger mode, traveling-wave photodetectors and modulators, and high-voltage switches using gallium nitride (GaN) on silicon substrates
Compound Semiconductor LaboratoryIn the Compound Semiconductor Laboratory, several materials growth systems provide indium phosphide (InP), gallium arsenide (GaAs), GaN, and related epitaxial alloys that are processed in a dedicated fabrication facility into photon-counting imagers, laser diodes, and electronic devices. (left) Organometallic vapor phase epitaxial growth system. (right) Inductively coupled plasma etcher.


Microelectronics Integration Facility

The Microelectronics Integration Facility (MIF) is used to package RF, optical, and electronic chips into higher-level assemblies. Recent examples include
  • Small-form-factor RF tags and communications chips
  • Deep-depletion CCD sensors for the 1.4 Gpixel Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS)
  • Geiger-mode avalanche photodiode arrays for laser communications and laser radar
  • Coherently-combined 100-element diode laser array
  • 0.8 Gpixel focal plane for wide-area motion imagery
Microelectronics Integration FacilityThe Microelectronics Integration Facility (MIF) consists of an advanced back-end of line processing lab (left) and packaging equipment (right) for chip-to-chip bump-bonding, multichip modules, wire-bonding, and hermetic packaging.


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