UF research center to focus on reliability of military computer chips
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new University of Florida research program will seek to improve the reliability of the electronic devices in many military radar systems and space-based communications equipment.
A kickoff meeting for the College of Engineering-based Center for a 21st Century Approach to Electronic Reliability is set for Thursday. The center is funded with a 5-year, $6.5 million Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative grant from the Department of Defense Air Force Office of Scientific Research.
“The military purchases high performance devices for a variety of land-based applications as well as space systems,” said Mark Law, lead investigator, professor and chairman of the electrical and computer engineering department. “Over the last five to ten years, these devices have been failing in ways that were not expected. We want to figure out why that’s happening — and how to make the devices more reliable.”
Law said the military uses computer-chip-based devices in both ground and sky-based radar systems, as well as in satellite communication equipment. The more powerful the signal, the more distance it can travel, and the greater the detail of the resulting images. Yet the chips used in these systems have been failing far too often, he said. “The parts come with standard testing that shows they will work for 10 years, and they fail in one,” he said.
The Department of Defense’s MURI program in March announced awards of more than $200 million to 64 universities for a variety of research. Law said the DOD chose the UF engineering college for the reliability research because it has a unique mix of experts in silicon, used in standard computer chips, and aluminum gallium nitride, used in the military chips.
“The DOD was excited about the possibility of applying some of the expertise we have in silicon to these less common devices,” he said.
The center will be based in the electrical and computer engineering department, but faculty from materials science and engineering and chemical engineering will also participate.
The center will also support the research of 18 doctoral students over the five-year period.