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DARPA is developing an unjammable communications chip

The new chip will give American forces a significant advantage over China and Russia.
Andrew Tarantola, @terrortola
January 13, 2016
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Electronic warfare (EW) techniques -- from killing missiles with microwaves to downing drones with radio interference -- have become an integral part of modern wars. This issue is exasperated by the fact that both sides in a conflict must also compete for the finite spread of interference-free wireless spectrum with which they operate their multitude of wireless devices. To maintain American fighting superiority over the likes of China and Russia, both of whom are considered "near peers" in terms of EW combat capabilities, DARPA has developed an ultrafast chip to convert analog wireless signals into digital ones in record time.

DARPA's ADC, or analog-to-digital converter, will allow US forces to avoid being jammed by enemy EW methods by processing chunks of the electromagnetic spectrum about 10 times faster than what current-generation alternatives can muster. It takes over 60 billion analog and digital samples -- equivalent to roughly 1 Terabyte of data -- every second. This allows US forces to analyze more data from a larger swath of the spectrum in the same amount of time as current ADCs.

The chip isn't quite ready for the battlefield just yet, however. Its current iteration still draws far too much power to be useful in the field. DARPA is therefore partnering with GlobalFoundries to shrink the processor from its current 32nm fab down to 14nm. That should reduce its power consumption by 50 percent while maintaining its blistering performance. Next, DARPA will tackle managing the massive amounts of data this thing produces.

[Image Credit: Getty]

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