The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Bardin Wins DARPA Award

Joseph Bardin of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department has been awarded approximately $295,000 for two years by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Young Faculty Award Program to do an electronics project entitled “Programmable Front-Ends in Advanced Technologies.” Out of 407 applicants for the program, only 39 of what DARPA called “the nation’s brightest young scientists” were selected to receive grants totaling $11.7 million. In his research, Bardin will be designing a new generation of flexible, self-optimizing electronic circuits capable of boosting system performance in sensors and wireless devices.

As Bardin explains the need for his project, the way we live our lives has been revolutionized over the past decade by the semiconductor industry. With every new generation of semiconductor devices, we have seen remarkable improvements in our commercial electronics due to the availability of faster transistors and denser digital logic.

“Today’s state-of-the-art transistors – with feature sizes of less than one thousandth the diameter of a human hair – offer unprecedented computational power,” says Bardin.

Unfortunately, due to uncertainty regarding device performance, typical analog design techniques, which depend heavily on the accuracy of mathematical device models, are no longer viable when working in these extremely scaled technologies.

“Our design approach is quite different than conventional techniques,” Bardin explains. “Rather than basing our designs on preconceived performance expectations, we are taking advantage of the computational capabilities that are inherent in today’s state-of-the-art silicon processes to design flexible circuits that can independently adjust their characteristics in order to maximize system performance. The hope is that these self-optimizing circuit topologies will lead to a new generation of flexible and reconfigurable sensors and wireless devices."

DARPA was established in 1958 to prevent strategic surprise from negatively impacting U.S. national security by maintaining the technological superiority of the U.S. military.

“The Young Faculty Awards grants allow junior faculty members broad latitude to explore scientific advancement in a particular research area,” says Dr. Tayo Akinwande, the YFA program manager, in the DARPA press release. “This year’s recipients will conduct basic research in fields such as biology, electronics, energy, and materials.” (September 2011)