MicroSensor System PROGRAM

Sponsor: Defense Microelectronics Activity

Background. The U.S. military faces many challenges in the current international environment. As technology advances rapidly in many areas it is critical to provide capabilities that provide a substantial military advantage. The use of wireless sensor systems holds promise to greatly enhance situational awareness in many combat and non-combat scenarios. These systems can be used as unattended ground sensors providing surveillance for military installation perimeters, international borders, and other remote areas. Current unattended ground sensors systems being used are more costly and are physically larger in size than what is desired.

Under the leadership of Defense Microelectronics Activity, NDSU is working with an industry team on designing, developing and demonstrating next generation sensor systems that can be integrated into the military’s C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) infrastructure. These systems will be cost effective, reliable and easy to deploy. Additionally, NDSU is working on advanced technology suitable for ultra-low cost disposable sensors that will be used for many applications in the future.

Program Objectives. The primary objectives for the MicroSensor program include:

  1. Establish a Center of Excellence (COE) at NDSU with capability to perform wireless microsensor system research, development and prototype fabrication for dual use (military and commercial) applications.
  2. Acquire an advanced, high volume, low-cost microelectronics fabrication technology called Fluidic Self Assembly (FSA®) from Alien Technology Corporation through a technology transfer program. This capability will be used for advanced research and development on ultra low-cost, disposable microsensors.
  3. Partner with industry team members to develop prototype and field microsensor systems to be used as unattended ground sensors for military, border security and other applications.
  4. Perform basic and applied research in a broad range of areas related to microsensor systems.

Progress. Substantial progress has been made during the multi-year program. Highlights of the program’s accomplishments include:

  1. A facility has been setup to perform singulation of integrated circuits (ICs) from wafers using a unique NanoBlock® release process and to assemble the ICs into functional electronic systems with FSA®. This facility includes class 100 and 10,000 cleanroom space, a mask aligner, spin coater, sputtering system, PECVD, and many other state of the art equipment items.
  2. Established an RFID and Wireless Sensor Laboratory with capability to test and characterize antenna performance in a 3 meter anechoic chamber.
  3. Worked closely with an industry team to develop the MicroObserver sensor system.
  4. Assembled several hundred MicroObserver sensor node and base station prototypes at CNSE for use in military utility assessments being conducted in numerous locations (domestic and international).
  5. Worked with industry partner to successfully transfer the MicroObserver system product to a production facility. First customer units were delivered in 2007.
  6. Established printed electronics capability to print passive and active devices, interconnects and antennas through thin film processes and also various direct-write methods.
  7. Developed novel UV curable, VOC-free conductive silver inks and photosensitizer materials for applications in flexible electronics.
  8. Demonstrated initial prototype for a wireless chemical sensor system utilizing chemiresistor materials from an industry partner.

Aaron Reinholz (electronics) – Aaron.Reinholz@ndsu.edu
Doug Schulz (materials) – Doug.Schulz@ndsu.edu

This material is based on research sponsored by the Defense Microelectronics Activity under agreement number H94003-08-2-0801, and prior agreements.