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11 Sep 14. Researchers ‘grow’ lasers in chip breakthrough. Researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara have reported a breakthrough in chip design that integrates electronic and photonic components and could lead to smaller, lighter, more power-efficient and less expensive microsystems of the kind used in radar, communications, imaging and sensing devices. In work funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the researchers have managed to place billions of light-emitting dots, or “quantum dots,” directly onto silicon, a process that avoids more involved and expensive procedures, DARPA said in a release. The research was done as part of DARPA’s Electronic-Photonic Heterogeneous Integration (E-PHI) program. “It is anticipated that these E-PHI demonstrator microsystems will provide considerable performance improvement and size reduction versus state-of-the-art technologies,” Josh Conway, E-PHI’s program manager, said. “Not only can lasers be easily integrated onto silicon, but other components can as well, paving the way for advanced photonic integrated circuits with far more functionality than can be achieved today.”
Microsystems devices generally need to be tailored to the application they’re to be used for, which precludes a uniform manufacturing process, DARPA said. Integrating the substrates and processing technologies to date has required combining microchips, which can limit bandwidth and introduce latency. The E-PHI program set out in 2011 to get around this problem by “integrating chip-scale photonic microsystems with high-speed electronics directly on a single silicon microchip,” DARPA said. The UCSB researchers showed how they created the quantum dots by depositing, or “growing,” layers of indium arsenide material directly onto silicon wafers, integrating electronic and photonic circuits on a common surface. This process would eliminate the need for wafer bonding, a more expensive process for adding photonic components to silicon. The results will reduce the size, weight and power requirements for those microsystems, as well as their assembly and packaging costs, DARPA said. (Source: Defense Systems)
12 Sep 14. Wearable robot will put a spring in soldiers’ steps.
Soldiers are used to being weighed down by what they wear, especially when it can add up to 100 pounds or so. But researchers are working on wearable gear that could actually do the opposite, reducing fatigue and the risk of injury when carrying heavy loads. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency just awarded a $2.9m grant to Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering to continue its work on the Soft Exosuit, which is pretty much what it sounds like—an exoskeleton made of soft, comfortable fabric combined with some robotics that assists the leg muscles and joints when walking.
Exoskeletons are often thought of as heavily armored Iron Man-type suites that require a lot of power and restrict the wearer to rigid, Frankenstein-like movements. But DARPA, through its Warrior Web program, has been looking to lighter and more flexible, specifically to help soldiers carry their gear. Musculoskeletal injury is the most common reason for discharge from the military.
“While the idea of a wearable robot is not new, our design approach certainly is,” said Conor Walsh, A Wyss core faculty member and leader of the research developing the suit. Designed for the lower half of the body, the suit is pulled on like a pair of pants and is worn under a soldier’s gear. It has a web of straps with a low-power microprocessor and strain sensors. Power comes from a pair of fanny pack-style batteries. The suit monitors such things as the suit tension and the wearer’s position, and provides subtle assistance to the legs in motion without restricting movement. Wyss’ earlier work on the