Field-programmable microwave circuitry

MIT Lincoln Laboratory is developing a programmable metal-sheet technology that will enable microwave components to be reconfigured on-the-fly.

With DARPA support, MIT Lincoln Laboratory is developing a programmable metal-sheet technology that will enable microwave components to be reconfigured ’on-the-fly’ to operate over large portions of the spectrum (from DC to 100 GHz), providing unprecedented capability and flexibility in a single microwave device.

This programmable metal sheet will consist of a large-scale switch array (125,000 switches per square inch) based on a Microelectro-mechanical Systems (MEMS) micro-shutter display technology developed at Lincoln Laboratory over the past six years.

The resulting building block is totally generic, allowing arbitrary microwave and millimetre-wave distributed-circuit elements to be created nearly instantaneously under computer control, enabling multiband amplifiers, antennas, and filters to be defined, redefined, and adjusted in real-time.

MEMS programmable metal-sheet technology has a broad range of applications that could result in significant new military capabilities.

It could, for example, be used to develop a universal radio or satellite communication terminal capable of working with a wide range of legacy military communication systems and easily adaptable to new applications.

Radar frequencies and waveforms could be changed on-the-fly to react to jamming or clutter or to better identify targets. This technology could be used to develop adaptable signals intelligence receivers that can tune over a very broad spectrum.