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Lab News -- July 7, 2006

July 7, 2006

LabNews 07/07/2006PDF (650KB)

Hot is the new cool: High-temp electronics open new era of devices, applications in energy, weapons

After years of tantalizing, just-out-of-reach promise, the era of high-temperature electronics has arrived — and Sandia has abundant opportunities to embrace and advance the use of this special class of electronics across diverse weapons and energy applications.

That’s the message Sandia engineer Randy Normann shared during a Technology Symposium last week with some 100 Sandians at the Steve Schiff Auditorium and (via video link) the Bldg 904 auditorium in California.

Randy, a Sandia leader for more than a decade in the development and application of high-temperature electronics, said, “This stuff is starting to become real; things are starting to happen.”

High-temperature electronics, as the name suggests, are a class of electronics that function effectively at temperatures that render conventional electronics ineffective and unreliable, that is, at temperatures ranging from 350 degrees F to 600 degrees F. Currently, high-temperature electronics come in two flavors: SOI — silicon-on-insulator (in which an insulating substrate protects and shields conventional silicon components) — and SiC — silicon carbide, with intrinsic high-temperature-tolerant characteristics. While both approaches have merits, the newer SiC-based electronics can be fabricated smaller, and, as Randy noted, smaller means faster and faster means more efficient.

“That sounds like a good combination,” Randy said.

(A still-newer high-temperature technology, based on gallium nitride, is not very far along in the development process.)

Randy noted that several commercial suppliers have aggressively jumped into the high-temp electronics market to grab a piece of the action. The big market driver at the moment — and it is a large one — is the well-drilling and downhole instrumentation market, but, as Randy made clear, there are a host of other applications that stand to benefit from the use of these new electronics.

Randy said high-temperature electronics is a win-win on both sides of the energy equation: On the supply side, it is an enabling technology for deeper oil and gas drilling, for geothermal drilling, and for use in specific application in extreme nuclear power plant environments.

It is also an enabling technology on the consumption side, with applications in aircraft, hybrid automobiles, and the power grid.

Benefit to oil patch is obvious

The interest in this technology from the oil-patch is obvious. As well-drilling goes beyond 35,000-foot depths with single offshore wells costing more than $100 million, there is almost a money-is-no-object demand for better, more reliable electronics that enable drill-head steering and better data acquisition.

Downhole instrumentation makers, Randy noted, are fiercely competitive, always seeking the kind of edge that high-temperature electronics can give them. “They fight to stay on the [downhole] tool the way NBA players fight to stay in the paint.”

The aircraft industry, too, is beginning to show extreme interest in high-temp electronics. A bit of background: for several decades, the philosopher’s stone of aircraft builders has been something they call “the more electric airplane.” The military is interested in the concept, but it is equally compelling to commercial plane makers.

Regarding the more electric aircraft, an analysis done for the Air Force Research Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, indicates that replacing many of the hydraulic, pneumatic, mechanical, and electrical systems in an aircraft with reliable SiC-based electronic components would reduce weight, volume, (thus saving fuel) along with reducing required equipment and support personnel. The future SiC-based “more electric aircraft” can save the military billions of dollars.

Randy asserted that “high temperature” and “high reliability” go hand in hand; that is, high-temperature electronics are simply more reliable than their plain-vanilla silicon cousins. That’s why developers of some applications are interested in high-temperature electronics for use in locations where reliability (not temperature) is the critical factor.

Sandia, Randy said, can play a key role in the development, refinement, and deployment of high-temperature electronics. Their use is becoming pervasive in both weapons systems and energy, two of Sandia’s key mission areas.

Sandians, meanwhile, are actively involved in helping to mature GaN technology and are tackling the high-temperature electronics packaging issue. Packaging — that is, how a particular piece of electronics interfaces with an application — differentiates market winners from also-rans.

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Teaming with Rockwell Collins sends miniSAR soaring


“It’s like a long-distance relay race: we’re in it for the long haul and every member of the team covers a critical leg of the race.”

That’s how Sandia’s Director of Industrial Communications Jerry Langheim (5200) and Rockwell Collins’ Director of Business Alliances Steve Kennell characterize the newly expanded relationship between the two organizations. Jerry and Kennell are managers of the relationship.

Aerospace leader Rockwell Collins designs, produces, and supports communication and aviation electronics for commercial and government customers. The company delivers industry-leading surveillance solutions worldwide.

Rockwell Collins has announced that it will spend several million dollars over the next two years to turn Sandia-developed miniSAR technology into a product that can be deployed on a Shadow 200 tactical unmanned aerial vehicle. MiniSAR is a small- form-factor synthetic aperture radar system that can “see” through clouds and in the dark. (See “Synthetic Aperture Radar in a nutshell” at right.)

Sandia's Defense Systems and Assessments Strategic Management Unit (DS&A SMU) has worked with Rockwell Collins for the past three years to identify a viable market opportunity for miniSAR. Rockwell is now ready to move forward.

“The miniature SAR product is targeted for use on both manned and unmanned vehicle platforms, to provide small, persistent surveillance, intelligence, and reconnaissance capability to the military,” says Ron Hornish, VP and General Manager of Sensor Systems for Rockwell Collins Government Systems. He adds that because of its compact size, the miniSAR product could free up payload spaced for additional communication systems and integrated systems products and services.

"Sandia's strategic objectives include partnering with industry to transition advanced capabilities developed at the national labs to the end-user,” says Brett Remund (5340), Deputy Director, Microwave Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance. “This partnership with Rockwell Collins provides a strong and complementary match to achieve these objectives, bringing advanced radar remote sensing capability to the warfighter."

“I can’t overstate the importance of these kinds of strategic relationships,” says DS&A VP Jerry McDowell. “Sandia’s science, technology, and engineering can benefit the nation and our DoD customers through industrial alliances. We have great expectations for this alliance with Rockwell Collins. ”

Industrial alliances integrate strategy and teamwork

“One of the keys to management of this relationship is its joint Steering Committee,” says Jerry Langheim. Members from executive and technical communities of both Sandia and Rockwell Collins sit on this board and guide the direction taken by the alliance.”

Sandia has had an umbrella CRADA (Cooperative Research and Development Agreement) with Rockwell Collins in place for several years. The steering committee concept was implemented at the time of the first project, which was jointly funded by Rockwell, Sandia, and DOE.

Numerous team members have been involved in the process of discovery that has led to the identification of the miniSAR project as an ideal joint effort between Sandia and Rockwell. Sandia contributors to the successful establishment of this relationship include Michael Callahan (12300), Marion Scott (5600), David Williams (4500), Jay Jakubczak (1710), Kurt Sorensen (5345), George “Sandy” Sanzero (10116), Ann Adams (10116), and Sarah Low (10116).

In addition, Sandia and Rockwell Collins are collaborating on project/task statements in the following areas: human cognition, hypervelocity vehicle GPS (Prompt/Precision Global Strike), Chem/Bio, miniaturization, UMBRA modeling and simulation, and Anti-tamper. Rockwell Collins will also support future manufacturing needs for Monitoring Systems and Technology Center 5700.

“It takes teamwork to hand off the baton in a relay race and we believe that Sandia and Rockwell are uniquely suited to take miniSAR the distance together,” says Rockwell Collins relationship manager Steve Kennell.

“We share a vision and expect to see more from this alliance in the future,” says Jerry McDowell.

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Truman Fellowship Program announces scholars for 2006

When Sandia National Laboratories opened in 1949, President Harry S. Truman charged the independent laboratory with the mission to perform “exceptional service in the national interest.” Since then, those words have been the driving principle behind the work carried out at the Labs.

Today, Sandia honors the memory of President Truman’s challenge through the prestigious President Harry S. Truman Fellowship in National Security Science and Engineering. Currently in its third year, the program is a three-year appointment that allows scholars to perform postdoctoral research in their proposed topic area. That research must be related to national security and address a major scientific or engineering problem, or provide a new approach or insight to a major problem, thereby impacting their field of study.

This year’s recipients are Whitney Colella and Hung (Jacques) Loui, who join the distinguished ranks of the five previous Truman Fellows (Lab News, June 25, 2004; May 27, 2005).

“We’re proud to provide some of the world’s finest research opportunities to these truly outstanding Truman Fellows,” says Sandia VP and Chief Technology Officer Rick Stulen (1000). “Whitney and Jacques epitomize the best coming out of our universities and I’m confident they will both make important discoveries and contributions during their time at Sandia.”

Whitney and Jacques were selected out of the many applications received from universities across the nation, including Princeton, University of California-Berkeley, Georgia Tech, MIT, Stanford, University of Texas-Austin, and others.

Whitney Colella

Whitney has an outstanding academic record with a BS in mechanical engineering and a minor in public policy from Princeton, an MS in science and public policy from Sussex, an MS in mechanical engineering from Stanford, an MBA from Oxford, and a DPhil in engineering science from Oxford. She has been recognized with British Marshall, Fulbright, National Science Foundation, T.J. Watson, Gilbreath, and Overseas Research scholarships and fellowships.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to conduct research at Sandia,” she says. “Pursuing my proposed research at Sandia under the Truman Fellowship was my first choice among several options. I am extremely impressed with Sandia as a national lab — especially its engineering focus. I am looking forward to the opportunity to work with some of the best researchers in the country. I have really enjoyed getting to know a few Sandians and am impressed with how down-to-earth, genuine, and intelligent they are.”

Whitney’s PhD thesis was an original experimental systems model of fuel cells that considered heating, cooling, and the use of by-product heat. She developed concepts and control strategies that challenge conventional analysis of fuel cells and show that, with imaginative design, they have more immediate commercial potential than generally thought. One of her recommendations was adopted by DaimlerChrysler’s fuel cell subsidiary. She has also designed an integrated fuel cell power and heating system for the Stanford campus. As an undergraduate, she developed and built the world’s first fuel cell-assisted bicycle.

“One of the best parts of the Truman Fellowship is that it lets me conduct research of my own choosing, for three years, in conjunction with experts in related fields,” Whitney says. “Because of the flexibility of the fellowship, I will have the opportunity to work with researchers in both the Homeland Security Systems and Development Department and the Biological and Energy Sciences Department, in both Livermore and Albuquerque.”

Whitney has co-edited a book, written two book chapters, and published eight journal articles. She has given 25 lecture presentations and presented 15 posters.

Hung (Jacques) Loui

Jacques comes to Sandia with an impressive academic record, particularly considering that as an undergraduate at the University of Colorado, he double-majored in electrical engineering and piano performance. He won a number of prestigious piano competitions before focusing on engineering research. His graduate record in electrical engineering from the University of Colorado is near-perfect and is demonstrated by a number of scholarships and fellowships, including a Department of Education Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need Fellowship.

“Having seen the quality of people and the kinds of research being conducted at Sandia National Laboratories, I am deeply honored to be chosen as one of this year’s recipients,” Jacques says. “Sandia is second to none. I was impressed by every aspect of it and did not want to leave — especially after discovering the library.”

In his PhD work, Jacques tackled a longstanding, unsolved problem in quantitatively describing the radio frequency characteristics of thick metal surfaces with arbitrary inclusions. To solve this problem, he developed, implemented, and tested an efficient computational method, which is a significant advance in the state-of-the-art for frequency-selective surface modeling. This formulation allows for the analysis of complex periodic and aperiodic structures over an extended frequency range. Jacques’ research has immediate applications to antenna and radome structures, and his analysis method appears suitable and unique for a wide range of other applications, such as active switching and steering.

“My research will produce new types of periodic and aperiodic metal/dielectric surfaces and their associated electro-optical processing systems supporting the needs of Sandia,” Jacques says. “This fellowship will allow me to collaborate with the expertise from on-going research in this technology at Sandia.”

Jacques has an extensive record of research contributions, including work with NASA and collaborations abroad with the Universidad de Buenos Aires. He has three publications in distinguished journals, and three conference presentations, two of which were at the IEEE Antenna and Propagation conference.

Truman Fellowship Committee

Each year, the Truman Selection Committee is made up of senior scientists who volunteer their time to review, rank, and interview applicants. This year’s members include Ron Loehman, Chair (1815), Patrick V. Brady (6118), Jeff Brinker (1002), David Chandler (8350), David Gartling (1500), Lyndon Pierson (5616), Larry Rahn (8350), and Anita Renlund (2550). Final selection is made by Chief Technology Officer Rick Stulen (1000).

Sandia’s University Research Office and Human Resources/University Partnerships teamed more than three years ago to create the new postdoctoral position and guide the processes necessary to implement the prestigious position.

Previous Truman Fellowship recipients: Youssef Marzouk (8351), Gregory Nielson (1769), Ilke Arslan (8756), Meeko Oishi (6226), and David Scrymgeour (1114).

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