Senior congressional and executive branch staffers tour
Lincoln Laboratory

Visit is part of an MIT Security Studies Program seminar

Approximately 32 congressional hill and executive branch staffers visited MIT Lincoln Laboratory on 4 April as part of the MIT Security Studies Program's Seminar for Senior Congressional and Executive Branch Staff. The Laboratory visit was organized by Dr. Steven Bussolari, Director's Office Staff for Strategic Initiatives. The MIT Security Studies Program is a graduate-level research and educational program based at the Center for International Studies at MIT.

Dr. Eric Evans, Director, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, provided an overview of the Laboratory's mission areas, highlights of key programs and technical innovations, and a summary of the Laboratory's role in developing one-of-a-kind technologies for national security. Dr. Evans talked about the Laboratory's roots in the MIT Radiation Laboratory, the development of radar systems during World War II, and subsequent Lincoln Laboratory work to develop the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment system to address the Soviet Union's long-range bomber threat. He also discussed the Laboratory's relationship with MIT and its role as a Department of Defense Laboratory Federally Funded Research and Development Center.

In summarizing the Laboratory's mission areas, Dr. Evans emphasized the recent growth in areas such as cyber security, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and tactical systems. He provided highlights of key technology programs such as the Space Surveillance Telescope, the Enhanced Regional Situation Awareness system that was developed by Lincoln Laboratory and installed in the National Capital Region, and the Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration. He also discussed the Haystack Ultrawideband Satellite Imaging Radar that is designed to detect and image space objects at high resolution.

Dr. Evans also described the Laboratory's role in developing innovative technologies and systems and transitioning the technology to industry. He pointed out that many of the technologies developed at Lincoln Laboratory for the Department of Defense have had great utility in air safety and natural-disaster-relief efforts, such as those in Haiti after the earthquake and for the state of California's network of first responders for wildfire control.

Attendees then toured the Microelectronics Laboratory, wide-area persistent surveillance lab, and the rapid-prototyping facility. Dr. Craig Keast, Assistant Division Head, Advanced Technology Division, gave an overview of the Microelectronics Laboratory, a specially designed, 70,000-square-foot, semiconductor research and advanced prototyping facility with 8100 square feet of class-10 and an additional 10,000 square feet of class-100 clean room support space. The laboratory, Dr. Keast explained, supports advanced packaging with a precision multichip module (MCM) technology and advanced three-dimensional (3D) circuit stacking technology. This state-of-the-art facility is used by more than 40 active programs within five divisions at the Laboratory, as well as industrial sponsors involved through Cooperative Research and Development Agreements.

Dr. Craig Keast explained some of the capabilities of the Microelectronics Laboratory to congressional and executive branch staff who visited Lincoln Laboratory as part of an MIT Security Studies program.Dr. Craig Keast (far left) explained some of the capabilities of the Microelectronics Laboratory to congressional and executive branch staff who visited Lincoln Laboratory as part of an MIT Security Studies program.  

Dr. Keast added that the equipment set in this laboratory is continually updated and includes a production-class complementary metal oxide semiconductor  (CMOS) toolset with angled ion-implantation, cluster-metallization, and dry-etch equipment; chemical-mechanical planarization equipment; and rapid thermal processing and advanced lithography capabilities. A molecular-beam epitaxy system is used to provide high sensitivity and highly stable back-illuminated devices in the ultraviolet and extreme ultraviolet ranges.

Dr. William Ross, leader of the Advanced Electro-optical Systems Group, talked about the Laboratory's wide-area persistent surveillance capabilities. Dr. Ross briefed the visitors on the Wide-Area Infrared System for 360° Persistent Surveillance (WISP-360), a long-wave infrared imaging system that produces and records 360° × 20° 100-megapixel-class panoramic video data at a rate of one frame every two seconds. The WISP-360 camera head uses a two-dimensional scanning system that relies on the unique digital focal plane array developed by Lincoln Laboratory. This tower-mounted system utilizes real-time processing and exploitation tools to provide daytime and nighttime 360° persistent surveillance of a ground area. The system was designed for monitoring remote sites and critical infrastructure, providing a 24-hour, seven-days-a week situational awareness that is vital for the protection of military outposts and national assets.

Brian Languirand, leader of the Fabrication Engineering Group, and James Ingraham, associate leader of the Rapid Prototyping Group, provided a tour of the rapid prototyping facility, a new 3900-square-foot engineering facility that supports the rapid integration and fielding of specialized systems for the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and other Laboratory sponsors. They explained that this facility was designed to accommodate an increased emphasis on rapid prototyping efforts. The remodeled facility complements this emphasis by providing the appropriate tools, collaborative environment, and required infrastructure to sustain rapid prototyping projects. The facility can accommodate the development of about five to eight systems, all with concept-to-system delivery timelines of less than 12 months.

James Ingraham showed the congressional and executive branch staff an example of the advanced, complex systems that are being prototyped in the Laboratory’s rapid hardware-integration facility.James Ingraham showed the congressional and executive branch staffers an example of the advanced, complex systems that are being prototyped in Lincoln Laboratory's rapid hardware-integration facility.

During a working lunch, attendees were given brief overviews of three key technology areas:  quantum dots for secure communications, the Imaging System for Immersive Surveillance (ISIS), and probabilistic threat propagation.

Dr. Christine Wang, a senior staff member in the Electro-optical Materials and Devices Group, provided a brief overview of the Laboratory's work with quantum dots (QDs). Dr. Wang explained how QDs are nanometer-sized semiconductor crystals in which electrons and holes are confined in three dimensions. The 3D confinement results in discrete energy states similar to the quantized energy levels in single atoms and ions. As a result, QDs can emit single photons which are essential for establishing an optical communications system to safely transmit sensitive information. With funding from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Lincoln Laboratory is developing QD semiconductor technologies as the basis for quantum photonic components such as single-photon sources, single-photon switches, and repeaters for operation at ~1550 nm for secure communication over long distances. This effort leverages the Laboratory's existing in-house capabilities for semiconductor growth and fabrication facilities; in-house state-of-the-art NbN superconducting nanowire single-photon detectors; and expertise in photonic crystal cavities in collaboration with Prof. Edo Waks at the University of Maryland.

Daniel Chuang, a technical staff member in the Advanced Electro-optical Systems Group, provided an overview of ISIS, a 2012 C4ISR Big 25 Award–winning technology developed under sponsorship of the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate. This novel 360° video surveillance system was designed for the protection of densely populated critical infrastructures, such as urban centers or transportation facilities, and its video sensor achieves hundreds of millions of pixels of video coverage. Chuang explained that, while most commercial video surveillance systems are limited by gaps in camera coverage and inadequate resolution over large areas, ISIS supports comprehensive high-resolution wide-area coverage from a single vantage point. The first-generation ISIS was operationally tested at Boston's Logan International Airport. The next-generation system featured a sensor with twice the resolution of the previous prototype and was installed at various test sites in 2011. Chuang pointed out the potential applications of this technology for facility protection, special event security, perimeter protection, and airborne surveillance.

The final briefing on the Laboratory's emerging research areas was by Dr. Kevin Carter, technical staff member in the Cyber Systems and Technology Group. He discussed the Laboratory's current work on securing networks. Although infected websites are reportedly decreasing, said Dr. Carter, the number of websites purposefully distributing malware is increasing. The Laboratory is investigating an approach that uses "blacklists" to prevent users from visiting known malicious destinations, but, as Dr. Carter acknowledged, there are many challenges to this approach, including the frequency of domains falsely identified as malicious. He concluded by explaining how graph analytics for community detection is being used to more accurately identify malicious sites and threats.

Posted May 2013

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