Microelectronics in Defense: Improving Military Use of Microelectronic Devices Skip to main content

National security is a complex field that works toward protecting everyone around us. The sheer number of devices and people working for our safety at any given moment is tremendous. As technology continues to become more efficient and compact than ever before,  new defensive strategies arise. 

City Labs has dedicated itself to designing a reliable and durable nuclear battery that can power microelectronics long-term. The improvement and increased development of microelectronic devices will lead to novel uses in industries like defense and security. 

Microelectronics Goals for Defense

Since their inception, microelectronic devices have been used in the defense industry. A variety of microelectronic conductors, sensors, and switches are already essential to military operations. The current objective is to continue improving those components to perform better, longer, and in more extreme conditions. 

Improve Long-Term Access to New Technology

Beyond what microelectronic devices can do on their own, they also open the gates to a wealth of new technology. They can monitor the performance and status of larger, more complex devices. 

Experts in the field are trying to improve microelectronics accessibility across more industries. Microelectronic device compatibility could improve surveillance, security, remote piloting, defense systems, etc. Microelectronics’ future in defense depends on the ability to integrate new technology with old. 

Microelectronics as a Central Part of Military Operations

The military is noticing the potential impact of microelectronic devices being decentralized. In the past, the U.S. has been heavily reliant on foreign countries for much of its semiconductor production. The U.S. Government recently passed the CHIPS Act, which provides more than $52 billion for microelectronics research and development. This money will support domestic semiconductor production to lessen dependence on the overseas supply chain.

Increase Workforce Potential

Another goal in the defense microelectronics industry is to increase the number of experts in the field. With the rapid expansion of microelectronic devices, there will be a growing demand for those who understand and can work with the technology. Microelectronic expertise is rare and difficult to attain with current training programs. Money from the CHIPS Act will be used to build the industry and subsidize microelectronics companies. 

Challenges in Powering Microelectronic Devices

Developing new microelectronics for military use will require the development of adequate power sources. While lithium-ion and other electrochemical batteries are commonly used, they are unreliable in certain extreme conditions. That’s why there is a trend towards using radioisotopes in microelectronic batteries. 

When it comes to nuclear batteries, however, there are new obstacles that must be overcome. Radioactive materials are often expensive and difficult to acquire. Radioisotopes that can produce large amounts of energy may also emit significant radiation. Finding a balance between sufficient power and materials that are safe and affordable can be difficult. 

Betavoltaic Power Sources for Microelectronics

Nuclear batteries can harness the natural radiation of isotopes to produce a more steady, predictable, and longer current than traditional batteries. Betavoltaic batteries capture beta particles from decaying isotopes and convert their kinetic energy to electrical power. These power cells can output a constant flow of energy in extreme conditions for decades without maintenance.

Tritium beta decay is among the mildest forms of radiation and can be shielded in low concentrations with thin protection. Learning how to use isotopes like tritium for long-term low-energy microelectronic devices can improve defense efforts globally. 

Types of Microelectronics Devices for Defense

Microelectronics is a large field with many different specializations. This includes extremely complex tiny computers and one-dimensional sensors that can function for decades without maintenance. The military can use these devices for a range of applications. 

Power Sensors Used in Military Applications

One of the most essential devices in the defense industry is the electrical power sensor. Innovations in surveillance, communication, and transportation depend on these simple sensors to create an intricate network observation. The military uses the following:

  • Active sensors can locate objects in their vicinity through the use of signals or light wavelengths. They are used in navigation, air defense, surveillance, search and rescue, and sonar technology. They often use an internal radiation source to illuminate their surroundings. 
  • Wearable sensors can be worn directly on the body and transmit data for both training and real-world purposes. They can be used to track soldiers and improve communications. They are compact and durable to accommodate a moving individual. 
  • Camera sensors help detail changes in the environment and supplement surveillance systems. They can help track targets and identify faces or movement. 
  • MEMS sensors (micro-electro-mechanical systems) are a type of sensor that detect the pressure changes inside of aircrafts, accumulate data in satellites, and identify whether unknown vehicles are friend or foe. They are compact, reliable, and cost-effective. 
  • Infrared sensors can help to detect different types of weaponry that may be missed by the naked eye. Certain chemicals and explosives may be hard to detect without the help of infrared technology. 

Large Device Controls

Monitoring large military machines or vehicles is more accurate with the aid of microelectronic devices. Small switches can be used to control machines remotely. Microelectronics enable more effective surveillance and device piloting with a lower risk. 

Complex military machines rely on smaller components to remain operational. Improving those components is one way to make the overall system more reliable. 

Semiconductor Military Applications

Semiconductors and integrated circuits are basic microelectronic components of many different devices. 

Semiconductors are essentially switches that control the flow of electricity when presented with a certain stimulus. Integrated circuits are a congregation of semiconductors in the same space that help to control more complex processes. Many of the devices used by the military—and in our everyday lives—contain semiconductors. 

Each of these types of microelectronic devices can be employed in some capacity for defense and security purposes.

City Labs NanoTritium™ Batteries Provide a Long-Term Power Source

Our betavoltaic power sources convert tritium radiation into electricity. Tritium batteries can output steady energy for over 20 consecutive years and do not sustain permanent damage from harsh conditions. City Labs excels at powering devices in extreme temperatures and remote locations. 

Many of our partners have already found innovative ways to use our batteries—you could be next.

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