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Electronic Hardware, Robotics and Wireless Technologies (EW)

SynTouch LLC BioTac Toccare provides tactile evaluations that are consistent, quantifiable, and reflective of human perceptions.

Program director

Muralidharan S. Nair headshot

Muralidharan S. Nair

Pre-submission feedback

Submit an Executive Summary to gauge if a project meets the program's intellectual merit and commercial impact criteria. Please note that responsiveness will likely be limited in the 2 weeks leading up to the solicitation deadline.

Technology topic

Electronic Hardware, Robotics and Wireless Technologies (EW)

Wireless Technologies (WT)

Wireless has become the platform for many applications with direct impact on virtually every aspect of life, evolving well beyond mobile phones and PDAs to other devices, services, channels, and content. Microwave circuits afford a wider frequency spectrum and extremely short antennae. With GaAs and SiGe, entire microwave transceivers can be inexpensively put on a single chip. Modulation methods like spread-spectrum and orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing bring greater spectral efficiency and more bits/Hz of bandwidth, and lead to less susceptibility to noise, interference, and multi-path distortion. On-chip DSPs allow new signal-processing functions. RFID chips are providing improvements in warehousing, materials handling, and shipping operations, replacing bar-code labels in many applications.

WT1. Systems and Devices

Proposals that involve next-generation wireless communication technologies requiring systems with high data rates, low cost, and that support a wide variety of applications and services, while maintaining full mobility, minimum latency, and long battery life are sought. Examples include low-energy Bluetooth; IrDA point and shoot communications; light wave communications (Li-Fi for >10 Gbits/second); near-field communications; self-sustaining technologies; super Wi-Fi; technologies that enable IPv6 and IPv7; inter/intra vehicular communication; smart shopping systems; smart vehicles, traffic control, and parking; body area networks; smart appliances and textiles; smart drones and drone networks; human body vital signs monitoring; and resilient wireless networks.

WT2. Wireless Devices and Components

Devices and subsystems that increase data throughput rates via cell density, increased spectrum, MIMO, and massive MIMO; new “antenna” concepts: embedded, fabric, dot antennas, 3D, multiferroic, biological; Modulation and demodulation techniques for signal generation and reception through spectral efficiency, noise immunity, jamming immunity, and power efficiency; RF pollution: device and circuit (RF, microwave, mm-wave and optical); processing algorithms - 3D spatial control (targeted volume transmission/receiving and sensing; high resolution 3D localization); high efficiency (low heat) devices such as micro-TWT, smart dust, and inductive couplers. Proposals in the areas of spectrum-related research and development activities that improve the efficiency by which the radio spectrum is used, and the ability of all members of the public to access spectrum-related services. Mobile and automotive radar, smart solar panels, on-panel DC-AC converters, and self-testing and self-networking devices are also of interest mobility, minimum latency, and long battery life are sought. Examples include low-energy Bluetooth; IrDA point and shoot communications; light wave communications (Li-Fi for >10 Gbits/second); near-field communications; self-sustaining technologies; super Wi-Fi; technologies that enable IPv6 and IPv7; inter/intra vehicular communication; smart shopping systems; smart vehicles, traffic control, and parking; body area networks; smart appliances and textiles; smart drones and drone networks; human body vital signs monitoring; and resilient wireless networks.

Energy and Power Management (EP)

In the power electronics realm, as CMOS chips go to finer lithography with each new generation, their multiplying transistors require lower voltages and higher currents. These trends have driven up power demands on printed circuit boards and placed constant pressure on power-supply and power-system developers to increase the efficiency and power or current density. At the same time, the trends toward lower voltages and higher currents have encouraged migration from centralized to distributed and portable power architectures.

EP1. Electronic Devices, Boards and Interfaces

Newer chips with lower supply-voltage requirements has greatly complicated power-system and power-supply design. Innovations in the areas of low-power device design and manufacturing as well as printed circuit and other boards that will operate at lower power and longer lifetimes are welcome.

EP2. Sustainable Energy Harvesting, Storage and Management - Device and System Level

Proposals are solicited in the areas of electronic systems for portable energy sources for mobile technologies and off-grid type applications, including new energy sources. Proposals in the areas of power management systems for energy scavenging/harvesting and compact energy conversion systems, conversion from renewable resources, interface devices between batteries and super-capacitors as well as smart power demand-response management systems are welcome. Proposals with ideas on nature-inspired processes for sustainable energy solutions and carbon storage, reducing the carbon and resource intensity of hydrocarbon extraction, energy conversion, and its uses are sought. Innovative projects may include new critical devices, components, and systems for energy harvesting and conversion from renewable resources (excluding solar technologies; refer to PH topic for solar technologies). Proposals involving energy storage from the scale of wearable devices to power plant (chemical or non-chemical), and energy conversion (harvesting, cooling) are encouraged.

EP3. Smart Grids and Infrastructure

Proposals that address innovations in new technologies that support smart infrastructures (such as materials, sensors, devices, and control systems) to ensure efficient and sustainable energy transmission, distribution, monitoring, and management for micro grids, integration of diverse energy sources, and self-healing networks are sought.

EP4. Power Management

Innovations in the areas of (but not limited to) novel voltage conversion, micro-inverters and DC-DC voltage converters, and compact hi-voltage, hi-power systems are welcome. Proposals covering new energy sources for portable and mobile devices, smart power demand-response management systems (e.g. smart grids, buildings, and circuits), inverters, motors, and generators for higher efficiency, smaller size and power factor corrections are encouraged.

Sensors (SE)

Recent technological advancements in materials science and bioengineered systems have made inexpensive, powerful, and ubiquitous sensing a reality. Examples range from truly smart airframes and self-evaluating buildings and infrastructure for natural hazard mitigation to large-scale weather forecasting, self-organizing energy systems, and smart devices that self-assemble into networks leading to the first electronic nervous system that connects the Internet back to the physical world. New detection technologies that overcome barriers of time, scale, materials, and environment, and emphasize self-calibration, selectivity, and sensitivity are solicited. Techniques for establishing a hierarchy for data from multi-sensor platforms; newer modalities for transduction (e.g. time-based measurements for pressure and acceleration); packaging interfaces for sensor-to-outside world; cost-effective, cheap, high-throughput post-manufacturing calibration (trimming, biasing, offset correcting); traceability through built-in secure tagging from component through packaging to end-use; automation and miniaturization; and sensor systems for situational awareness are of interest.

Sensor types of interest include mechanical sensors for dead-reckoning, touch and tactile sensors, failure prediction, autonomous cars; optical/image sensors for proximity, medical diagnostics, retinal implants, biomimetic, and particulates; smell sensors - environmental safety, food quality control, noninvasive health monitoring; asset tags; and other types of sensors such as chemical, proximity, magnetic, current/voltage, light, radiation, accelerometer/gyroscopes, cloud sensors, and biosignals (e.g. ECG, EMG, PPG, EEG).

In the area of sensor devices and signal processing, proposals are sought in new sensing modalities (sensing physics/chemistry, target specific); self-powered (power harvesting) and energy efficient; sensors for extreme environments; sensor fabrication techniques such as 3D printing and self-assembly; sensor signal read out, conditioning, and processing; and biodegradable sensors. For sensor systems and algorithms, tomographic processing, 3D array, autonomous sensing, sensor fusion, and remote sensing parametric inversion are of interest.

Robotics and Human Assistive Technologies (RH)

Considerable progress will be made if robots possessed the high intelligence needed to cope with uncertainty, learn from experience, and work as a team. Robot designers are borrowing features from insect nervous systems, and engineers and computer scientists collaborate with biologists, neuroscientists, and psychologists to exploit new knowledge in the study of the brain and behavior. Some robots will help people do what they cannot or would rather not do. Other robots will tackle complex projects by working as teams. Robots will help protect critical infrastructure and monitor the environment as mobile, intelligent sensors. High-performance processors, hardware to provide situational awareness, and improved artificial intelligence (AI) are enabling researchers to create lifelike robots with an entire gamut of facial expressions.

RH1. Learning, Intelligence and Motion

Proposals addressing robot intelligence and experiential learning, particularly those in the areas of high-performance processors/hardware to provide situational awareness, and improved artificial intelligence, are welcome. Innovations in voice, obstacle and image recognition, emotional response, and eye-hand coordination are encouraged. Proposals describing projects that borrow features from other animal nervous systems and include biologists, neuroscientists, and/or psychologists on their team in order to exploit new knowledge in the study of the brain and behavior, are encouraged.

RH2. Robotic Applications

Proposals involving robotics and intelligent machines having complex, human-like behavior for applications such as the protection of critical infrastructure or the monitoring of the environment while using mobile technologies and sensor networks, are sought. Innovations in areas such as improved time imaging, visualization, deep learning, neuromorphic computing, biorobotics, brainOS, human-robot interaction, dexterity and manipulation, anthropomorphic (human-shaped) robots, naturally inspired, biomimetic, neuromechanical robotics, haptic, real-time and bio-inspired feedback are also welcome. Other applications, including (but not limited to) precision agriculture; real-time operating systems; self-driving vehicles; wearable computers; self-charging and repairing drones; on-demand multipurpose autonomous taxis; security drones: chaperone, security guards, policing; on-demand garbage collection; and door-to-door deliveries are also appropriate.

RH3. Robotics in Agile Manufacturing

Proposals that address next-generation automation, the flexible and rapid reconfiguration of assembly lines allowing mass customization, the use of advanced control, scheduling, modularization, and decentralization with agile, mobile robotic systems that can enable the cost-effective manufacture of small lot-size products, and on-demand parts manufacturing are sought.

RH4. Co-Robots

Innovations in the development of co-robots, robots that work symbiotically (beside, in direct support, or cooperatively) with people, to extend or augment human capacities are welcome. Proposals describing the next generation of robotic systems able to safely co-exist in close proximity to humans in the pursuit of mundane, dangerous, precise, or expensive tasks; for sensors and perception, actuators and control, intelligence, machine learning techniques, architectures, systems, human/robot interfaces, and other developments that either realize or help to realize co-robots in manufacturing, service, construction, exploration, and assistive applications are encouraged. Cognitive robots for health care, training, and therapeutic/physical therapy are also appropriate.

RH5. Human-Machine Interfaces and Control/Architecture

Automated setup and personalization; self-learning machine interfaces; distributed sensor fusion of active sensors; passive environment sensing; emergent pattern detection algorithms; probabilistic algorithms; virtual design and prototyping; touch and force feedback; programmable manipulators; and automated vehicle navigation systems are of interest. Proposals addressing additional areas such as virtual cockpits; human/machine speech interfaces; personal navigators; remote places simulator, and holodecks are welcome. Proposals involving novel and advanced approaches to sensing, perception, and actuation in embedded and highly distributed systems; intelligent control architecture for robotic systems; the development of human-robot interfaces; communication and task sharing between humans and machines, and among machines; and self-diagnosing, self-repairing robots, are sought.

Proposals to support the physical and educational needs of individuals with disabilities - e.g. vision, hearing, cognitive, motor related - are sought. Robotic applications in healthcare (tele-robotics, robotic prosthesis, robot-assisted rehab, miniature robotics, high-throughput technologies - imaging, screening of drugs, surgical procedures) are appropriate. Medical devices that provide new capabilities to doctors including surgery; robotic exoskeletons to enhance human strength; personal robots with an emphasis on human-centered end use and interaction, personal caregiving and increased autonomy; and robots of augmentation are welcome. Proposals that address concepts for protecting human hands (in various extreme environmental conditions), and haptic, real-time and bio-inspired feedback concepts and mechanisms are also sought.

Micro-electronics Packaging, Thermal Management & Systems Integration (MT)

Proposals are solicited on more efficient means of integrating semiconductor components and devices into systems. The growth in chip density, coupled with the demand for high performance, small size, light weight, and affordable reliability has placed enormous pressure on interconnect technology and packaging at all levels. Innovations include (but not limited to) improved techniques for interconnect and packaging at the board level, packaging approaches for board components and passive components, techniques for board assembly, and applications of techniques to packaging and systems integration for optoelectronics and wireless systems. Memory continues to be a critical element in the full range of VLSI applications from big data to mobile applications to wearable devices. Recent trends, including process technology scaling limits, new memory applications, and evolving high-performance and low-power requirements, have driven the development of emerging memories, and their attendant packaging requirements.

Packaging, thermal management, and systems integration for sub-7nm CMOS, thin film/organic transistors, nanoscale III-V MOSFETs, 3D integrated circuits, silicon photonics; CMOS microfluidics, 3D flash memory, portable functional brain imagers, and biosensor arrays are of interest. Proposals that address packaging issues that involve power management circuits; wireless power transfer; energy harvester circuits; ultra-low voltage, low power circuits; neuromorphic circuits; advanced memory circuits, neural interface circuits; SoCs for mobile vision, sensing, and communications; micro-vacuum electronics; thin-film growth/epitaxy; novel IC films; ion implantation advanced RF circuit design and architectures (SOI, SiGe, GaAs); micro-valves and micro-turbines; and electrostatic discharge protection are also of interest.

Higher current at lower voltage drives thermal management needs of electronic devices. Proposals that address novel packaging concepts such as graphene wrapper versus hermetic or plastic modules; passive and active heat sinks; nanowire patterning and processing; layer transfer (removing active IC and transferring to a different substrate (e.g. heat sink); through-silicon via for placement versus added capacitance; robust surface-mount PCB technology; flip chip versus wire bond through wafer vias; novel high thermal conductivity films on chip (e.g. SiC, graphene, borene); and novel hi-kappa fluids for cooling.

Proposals that involve or consider heat sinking from SOI (off-current reduction, logic standby current reduction); advanced electro-thermal circuit simulation packages beyond high frequency structural simulators (HFSS); energy harvesting devices such as ZnO; reduced harmonic loss at high power to meet FCC specifications; integrated device micro-cooling: ferroic magnetocaloric, electrocaloric, strain-induced cooling; micro-cooled FET and bipolar circuit boards; self-powered devices; advanced circuitry involving electronic duty cycle feedback control; nano-fans and piezo micro-blowers; and structured packaging design optimization system are of interest.