Air Force expands computer chip nanoelectronics

The Air Force wants to engineer the highly sophisticated sensing and imaging technology needed to build smaller chips with comparable precision and confidence.

The Air Force is working to construct the smallest possible computer chips without sacrificing processing power by awarding a $9 million deal to BAE Systems and Electronic Systems Integrated Technology Solutions-Advanced Information Technologies for Rapid Analysis of Various Emerging Nanoelectronics (RAVEN).

This DoD effort is grounded in the recognition that highly sophisticated sensing and imaging technology are increasingly needed to build smaller chips with comparable precision and confidence.

RAVEN is a program under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which started the project to ensure they stay in lockstep with Moore’s Law predicted rate of technological innovation. BAE will develop an analysis tool capable of imaging minimum size circuit features on a silicon integrated circuit chip.

Earlier this year, BAE won the Electrons d’Or Award with a space-grade chip it had constructed with Integrated Defense Technology (IDT). Given out by French magazine ElectroniqueS, the award recognizes outstanding technological achievements. BAE and IDT won the military/aerospace division for their radiation-hardened chip that maximizes data flow in outer space.

According to an ODNI factsheet, RAVEN will analyze materials such as metal, polysilicon, vias, contacts, shallow trench isolation regions. To create these analyses, the report suggests using “x-ray based microscopes, high brightness scanning electron systems, multi-beam scanning electron microscopes, non-scanned projected image electron systems, ion beam imaging systems, ultra-high resolution interference optical microscopes, and multiple array AFM systems.”

 Work will be performed in Burlington, Massachusetts, and is expected to be complete by Nov. 2018. The Air Force obligated $2,299,000 at the time of award. The Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity.