DARPA eyes faster design of military chips

A new project aims to produce cheaper, more powerful chips

The U.S. military's research division has kicked off a project to accelerate its design of custom chips, so the latest semiconductor technologies can be used more quickly in defense applications.

For specific tasks like processing and transmitting images from a surveillance system, a custom chip can often do the job faster and more efficiently than a general purpose microprocessor.

The custom chips are smaller and consume less power, but it can take more than two years and $100 million to design them for military applications, according to an estimate from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

As a result, the military often relies on commercial chips and uses software to boost performance, but that means compromises are made.

So DARPA is researching ways to fast-track its chip design, and on Tuesday it awarded the University of Southern California an $11.8 million grant for phase one of a project called Circuit Realization At Faster Timescales (CRAFT).

CRAFT aims to reduce the time it takes to design a custom chip by a factor of 10, to just a few months.

It will create design frameworks that can be reused and updated as manufacturing technologies evolve. And it will try to build a database of methods, documentation and intellectual property that can be used across many chips.

Through CRAFT, the military wants to take advantage of the latest chip production methods, which help cut power consumption. Current Department of Defense custom chips are developed on production lines several generations behind that used for commercial chips, DARPA said.

The CRAFT project is expected to take three years, with phase one competed by February 2016.

snapcropped DARPA

CRAFT aims to make it easier, faster and cheaper to design custom circuits akin to this one, which was specially designed to provide a range of voltages and currents for testing an infrared sensor device that had been a candidate for an orbiting telescope.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?