News 1998 Army Science and Technology Master Plan

9. Electron Devices

Electronics plays a crucial role in battlefield supremacy, enabling or affecting virtually every aspect of warfighting. Electronic devices comprise four major subareas of technology: EO, MMW components, nanoelectronics, and portable power sources. These are the cutting–edge technologies that constitute the nerves and brains of the digitized battlefield. A superior and innovative program in electron device S&T is essential to the broad Army vision of decisive force multiplication with a minimum number of platforms and personnel, and avoidance of potentially disastrous technological surprise on the battlefield. Weapon systems that meet present and projected future requirements and that have affordable life–cycle costs will require exploitation of commercial electronics whenever possible, plus development of special technologies for Army systems having unique requirements or capabilities.

Table E–12 summarizes key foreign capabilities in each technology subarea, and the following paragraphs provide additional information on specific opportunities and strengths.

Table E–12.  International Research Capabilities—Electron Devices


United Kingdom




Asia/Pacific Rim


Other Countries

Electro–Optics 5s.gif (958 bytes) Photonics signal processing 1s.gif (931 bytes) IR FPA 4s.gif (949 bytes) Photonics signal processing 1s.gif (931 bytes) All aspects     Israel, Italy

5s.gif (958 bytes)

Millimeter– Wave Components 4s.gif (949 bytes) MMIC; GaAs 1s.gif (931 bytes) MMIC; compound semiconductors 1s.gif (931 bytes) MMIC; compound semiconductors 1s.gif (931 bytes) MMIC; acoustic wave devices;
compound semiconductors

5s.gif (958 bytes)

Nanoelectronics 5s.gif (958 bytes) Microscopy; biotechnology 5s.gif (958 bytes) Molecular chemistry; biotechnology 4s.gif (949 bytes) Submicron devices 1s.gif (931 bytes) All aspects   Russia

2s.gif (968 bytes) Molecular electronics

Portable Electrical Power 5s.gif (958 bytes) Diesel Engines 1s.gif (931 bytes) Batteries 1s.gif (931 bytes) Small engines 1s.gif (931 bytes) All aspects   Russia

2s.gif (968 bytes) Rechargeable batteries; power switching

Switzerland, Israel

5s.gif (958 bytes) Batteries

Austria, Italy

5s.gif (958 bytes) Diesel engines

Note: See Annex E, Section A.6 for explanation of key numerals.


a. Electro–Optics

EO includes critical military components such as lasers, focal plane arrays (FPAs), detectors, and displays. These represent the technologies that enable smart and precise weapons to function so effectively. Areas of particular interest to the Army include high–resolution, full–color, HMDs, affordable multispectral FPAs, fiber optic distributed sensors, light detection and ranging (LIDARs), and optical countermeasures. Technical challenges relate to optical and EO materials science, optoelectronic integrated circuits (OEICs), and monolithic or hybrid integration of electronic and photonic devices.

The United States and Japan generally share a commanding world lead in most aspects of electronic and EO devices and packaging. Japan is particularly strong in displays, laser diodes, and low–power lasers, with outstanding capabilities in commercial applications of photonic technology.

France has a strong capability in photonics, especially in the areas of optical switching and IR FPAs. Of particular interest is the design, fabrication, and packaging of smart FPAs into a single (monolithic) structure, for which France has the requisite expertise and supporting infrastructure. French scientists are working with the Army at Fort Belvoir on the technical challenge of growing cadmium zinc telluride (CdZnTe) and mercury cadmium telluride (HgCdTe) on silicon (Si). This work could overcome a major barrier to implementing a monolithic smart FPA, and could lead to a whole new generation of high–density, 2D sensor arrays.

Germany and the U.K. also have significant capabilities in photonics, and especially photonic processing of signals and images. In addition, Israel and Italy have niche capabilities that could be important. Israel, in particular, has an extensive EO S&T infrastructure including academic and industrial centers of excellence (COEs).

b. Millimeter–Wave Components

MMW components operate in the spectral range between microwaves and IR but share many properties of microwave radio frequency (RF) devices and signals. Having a shorter wavelength than microwaves, MMW devices require smaller size antennas and other components and offer greater resolution than microwaves. They are finding increasing applications in sensors and communications where relatively short range and high definition are required. They are especially useful for short range high–definition mapping radar and target surveillance. MMW phased–array radar is of particular interest. Another key application is for secure, jamproof, affordable wireless communications that might be used for instance in combat identification systems. While some of the technologies developed for microwave components can be applied to MMW, there still remain challenges to designing affordable components especially for the higher frequency MMW regions (40 GHz and above).

The key technology involves monolithic microwave integrated circuits (MMICs) and the challenge is to design and develop more affordable, higher power, and more efficient MMW components. Future electronic systems demand increasingly smaller, faster, and cheaper microelectronic devices. Devices based on silicon technology have reached a point at which components cannot be manufactured in significantly smaller sizes. To meet these requirements, compound semiconductors, especially GaAs are necessary.

France, Germany, Japan, and the U.K. all have significant capabilities in MMIC technology and the compound semiconductor technology on which they are based. Israel also has niche capabilities in GaAs devices. Of particular interest, however, Germany has developed a specific niche in indium phosphide as an alternative to GaAs. The promise of indium compounds has yet to be realized in production devices and a breakthrough in this area would be significant. Another noteworthy area is Japan’s expertise in acoustic wave devices, which are important components in many signal processing systems.

c. Nanoelectronics

Nanoelectronics or nanotechnology refers to devices having feature sizes in the nanometer range. In order to achieve the requisite packaging density for future microprocessors and other integrated circuits, the technology must advance well beyond the current submicron feature size limits into the nanometer range. Smaller, faster, cheaper electronic devices of the future require this technological breakthrough. In addition, microscale or nanoscale electromechanical components depend on this technology.

Technological goals include developing lithography and fabrication capabilities to produce integrated, nanometer feature size, ultradense circuits for revolutionary warfighting sensors and information systems capabilities. An overall major challenge is developing high–performance, very low–power electronic systems to substantially reduce battery requirements and the associated weight and size penalties. A major technical challenge is creating new widebandgap semiconductor devices for high–temperature electronics and for low–leakage, high–breakdown, highly linear power devices. Another challenge is achieving mixed–signal performance of nanoelectronics with on–chip MMW and EO components.

Japan has strong capabilities in all aspects of nanotechnology and Germany has noteworthy expertise in submicron device technology. Devices in the nanoworld are approaching the feature size scale of molecular chemistry and biotechnology. It is widely believed that true breakthroughs in nanotechnology are most likely to come from advances in these fields. France has strong capabilities in molecular chemistry that may be applied to nanoelectronics. Likewise, Russia has a strong background in molecular electronics. Germany has interesting capabilities in bio–optical thin–film materials that may be useful in many applications. In addition, due to advances in atomic force microscopy, the tools necessary to do world–class research are becoming more readily available. France and the U.K. have special capabilities in advanced microscopy and biotechnology that could prove important to nanoelectronics. An interesting twist in using biotechnology and molecular electronics is the possibility of self–assembling nanostructures that could greatly simplify the challenges to fabricating devices of this size. Since the areas of molecular electronics and biotechnology do not demand the enormous infrastructure investments that are required to do world–class electronics R&D, this is an area where a number of smaller countries could play a key role. Unlike the field of advanced electronics, where the United States and Japan basically dominate, nanotechnology may open up the playing field to many more players.

d. Portable Electrical Power

One of the most pressing Army needs is for small lightweight electrical power for the individual soldier. As the era of the digital battlefield unfolds, there is an increasing need for smarter and more self–reliant individual soldiers and weapons. This places an increasing demand on the computing, communicating, and sensing capabilities of the individual soldier, who requires more compact yet more powerful electrical power sources. Some of the foreseeable power requirements include enhanced hearing, night vision devices, computers, voice/data communications, helmet displays, individual navigation, weapon rangefinders, and possibly individual climate control. All of these require electrical power. The most promising near–term technology is advanced batteries offering lighter weight, higher power, and longer life. Lithium primary and secondary batteries seem to offer the best hope for low–cost, lightweight batteries with sufficient energy density for soldier power.

Japan is a world leader in virtually all aspects of portable electrical power with strength in batteries, fuel cells, power control devices, and switching components. France has significant capabilities in lithium–ion, lithium polymer, nickel–metal–hydride batteries, and in small–lot production of high–reliability batteries. Russia has strong capabilities in very high energy density silver–zinc batteries and Israel has niche capabilities in lithium thionyl chloride batteries.

Another area of major interest in portable power is the need for primary and auxiliary power for vehicle–borne systems, remote facilities (manned and unmanned), and for various remote sensors. Technologies of interest include batteries, fuel cells, and rotating machines. High energy density is an important requirement, as is fuel selection to simplify logistics requirements. In many cases, low observability (acoustic, thermal, and EM) is a critical factor.

Germany and Japan both have exceptional capabilities in small fossil–fueled rotating engines for power generation. A German company (Deutz) has developed a very small one–cylinder diesel engine with potential for auxiliary power in tanks and other applications. Austria, Italy, and the U.K. also have good capabilities in high–power middle distillate (diesel) engines.

AMC POC: Dr. Rodney Smith
Army Materiel Command
5001 Eisenhower Blvd.
Alexandria, VA 22333–0001

For EO:

CECOM IPOC: Mr. Richard Pei
Fort Monmouth, NJ 07703

ARL IPOC: Mr. Stephen Cohn
Army Research Laboratory
2800 Powder Mill Road
Adelphi, MD 20783–1197

For MMW components:

IPOC: Bob Both
Fort Monmouth, NJ 07703

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