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EDF-2021-MATCOMP-R-PHE: Materials and structures for enhanced protection in hostile environments

Military platforms and military personal protective equipment have to ensure a high level of protection against a large scope of threats and reduce risks of injuries for mounted and dismounted soldiers.

Military platforms and military personal protective equipment have to ensure a high level of protection against a large scope of threats and reduce risks of injuries for mounted and dismounted soldiers. This topic is motivated by three long-term challenges:

  • New protective systems with the required ballistic protection levels call for substantive investment but after a few years of deployment, the level of protection is most of the time unknown and decisions to discard, redeploy or upgrade, are often taken on uncertain basis or not taken at all. Therefore, the first challenge is to improve proving and certification of durability of current and new materials and protective systems in order to increase the confidence for procurement agencies and industries.
  • Soldiers are not sufficiently protected against certain threats and new solutions must be developed to reduce the risk of injuries. The second challenge is to find materials, which could protect against new threats.
  • The third challenge is to find new concepts of materials, which will be more environmentally friendly, and could reduce EU dependence on certain industries, for instance oil industries. This will ensure Europe’s capability and independence regarding export control constraints from non-European entities on such critical and strategic materials.

Adequate testing facilities are of utmost importance in all phases of the material and processes development, especially for screening candidate solutions, to generate experimental data (mechanical, thermal, physical, chemical properties, etc.). Hence, the design of new test facilities is to be encouraged.

The topic encompasses research activities on existing materials or new materials or concepts of protection taking into account the specificities listed in the following sections. All types of materials can be considered, for instance: ceramics, polymers, thermoplastics, metals, textiles, hybrid polymer composites, damping materials, nanoparticles and nanocomposites, metamaterials (where the properties of the armour will depend not only on the properties of the material, but also from its structure), …. Considered technologies also include protective systems, non-destructive testing, design methods and tools, numerical modelling and characterization and testing methods. The scope of the topic includes consideration of cost/performances and lifetime/recyclability compromises and the fact that materials and raw materials should as much as possible come from European sources to secure the European supply chain. The establishment of this European industry will require working in parallel on all materials manufacturing stages: raw materials (powder, UHTC, etc.), materials manufacturing processes, characterisation of the materials obtained, non-destructive control technology for advanced materials manufacturing. Proposals must also identify elements of a platform to test the outcome of current and future projects in terms of performance and functionality relevant to the activities performed during the project.

The proposals must cover the following activities as referred in article 10.3 of the EDF Regulation, not excluding other activities eligible for research actions if deemed useful to reach the objectives:

  • Activities aiming to create, underpin and improve knowledge, products and technologies, including disruptive technologies, which can achieve significant effects in the area of defence;
  • Studies, such as feasibility studies to explore the feasibility of new or improved technologies, products, processes, services and solutions;

On the objective of maintaining the ballistic performances when ageing naturally or artificially the proposal must address in particular:

  • A study on the state of the art of ageing capabilities of materials or protective systems to identify necessary further development in Europe,
  • Improvement of knowledge of ageing capabilities of materials or protective systems and their dependence on different environmental and operational conditions,
  • Study of methods to detect potential failures (non-destructive testing…),
  • Study of methods to optimize decision to discard, redeploy or upgrade.

On the objective of protection against new threats that are not considered today for vehicles and dismounted soldiers, the proposal must address in particular:

  • Research activities to improve knowledge, products and technologies of materials or protective systems against novel threats,
  • Improvement of design methods and tools.,
  • Improvement of numerical modelling and characterization and testing methods,
  • Study of innovative concepts, new materials, new processes, assemblies or design methodology,
  • Study to estimate requirements concerning weight/cost and eco-design. The compromises cost/performances and lifetime/recyclability must be addressed.

On the objective of improved materials protecting against current threats the proposal must address in particular:

  • Research activities to improve knowledge, products or technologies in order to reduce weight and costs of armour and protective systems against standardized threats,
  • Improvement of numerical modelling and characterization and testing methods,
  • Study of eco-design capabilities and requirements for future systems (bio-sourced raw materials, recycling…). The compromises cost/performances and lifetime/recyclability must be addressed
  • Activities aiming to improve damper technology to increase the dynamic reliability of the frame armour structure

On the testing platform, the proposal must address:

  • Study to identify existing services and explore the feasibility of new or improved services to screen candidate solutions and test their protection levels against military requirements and to generate experimental data, taking into account accessibility for new and non-traditional players in the defence sector.
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EDF-2021-MATCOMP-R-RF: Advanced RF components

Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology is a key enabler for high-performance RF electronic components, which are the cornerstone of critical military systems like radar and electronic warfare. GaN has replaced the former Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) technology, providing higher power, bandwidth and linearity to electronic RF amplifiers. GaN technology is deemed strategic for defence systems, and only a few non-European countries worldwide master the whole supply chain needed to provide GaN components for defence applications.

Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology is a key enabler for high-performance RF electronic components, which are the cornerstone of critical military systems like radar and electronic warfare. GaN has replaced the former Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) technology, providing higher power, bandwidth and linearity to electronic RF amplifiers. GaN technology is deemed strategic for defence systems, and only a few non-European countries worldwide master the whole supply chain needed to provide GaN components for defence applications.

Reducing size, weight,power and -cost (SWaP-C) of RF transceiver modules for phased arrays with active electronically scanned arrays (AESA) is essential for radar, electronic warfare and communication systems.

Being aware of the strategic importance of non-restricted access to GaN technology, several European countries started, more than a decade ago, a roadmap for the development of GaN technology for defence applications in Europe. This roadmap was mainly implemented under the EDA framework. Several projects addressing GaN technology for civil applications received funding under the Horizon 2020 framework. Those activitiesenabled significant steps towards a European native capacity in GaN. Despite the achieved milestones, further efforts are still needed to develop and consolidate a robust and competitive European supply chain for GaN components.

GaN-based RF transceiver modules are key enablers for modern active electronically scanned array (AESA) antennas, which are one of the essential components of high-end, state-of-the- art military RF systems used for radar or electronic warfare applications. Manufacturing GaN components with shorter gate lengths will allow both for the operation in higher frequency ranges and for shrinking of the transmit/receive modules (TRM), providing adequate RF performance with a high module integration (typically within a lambda/2-spacing). In addition, heterogeneous integration in the same package (SiP, system in package concept) with other technologies (GaAs, BiCMOS, SiGe or CMOS) will extend the functionalities of these modules and meet their SWaP-C requirements.

There are two key aspects for the building of a GaN supply chain for defence applications in Europe, both of which have been developed in parallel through the aforementioned projects. The first is the accessibility to the material itself (GaN substrates and technologies) and the availability of the processes to manufacture the components (GaN foundries). The second is the capability to design and implement GaN-based solutions (MMIC, etc.) for real and demanding defence applications.

Following those two work strands, proposals should address firstly, the need to secure supply of epitaxial wafers with GaN-HEMT structures and the development of an improved GaN manufacturing process.

Secondly, proposals should focus on novel applications in higher frequency bands (Ku, Ka and above, provided these upper bands are progressively enabled by the new GaN manufacturing process) and maturing the applications in the lower microwave bands (pursuing higher bandwidths, TX/RX integration, efficient thermal management, etc.).

Proposals should seek complementarity to other former or ongoing projects in other EU programmes and in the EDA framework.

The proposals must cover the following activities as referred in article 10.3 of the EDF Regulation:

  • Activities aiming to increase interoperability and resilience, including secured production and exchange of data, to master critical defence technologies, to strengthen the security of supply or to enable the effective exploitation of results for defence products and technologies;
  • Studies, such as feasibility studies to explore the feasibility of new or improved technologies, products, processes, services and solutions;
  • The design of a defence product, tangible or intangible component or technology as well as the definition of the technical specifications on which such design has been developed which may include partial tests for risk reduction in an industrial or representative environment.

The proposed activities should in particular include:

  • Activities to increase resilience and strengthening the security of supply of European SiC substrate and epitaxy. These are of prime importance to secure the supply chain for GaN military applications.
  • Improvement of existing processing capabilities and development of new technologies for RF-devices and modules under industrial manufacturing conditions with regard to throughput, yield and costs.
  • Investigations to gain a deeper understanding of physical effects limiting reliability and device degradation under military relevant operation conditions.
  • Among the new emerging materials, technologies, processes and tools, the proposed activities can optionally include exploration, in the same study, of benefits of other materials in comparison to GaN on SiC, e.g. GaN on Diamond or other suitable substrates, new transistors structures and with shorter gate lengths, improved PDKs, and new methods for measurement and characterization.
  • Detailed investigation of the appropriate GaN processes for the specific applications and target frequency bands in order to face related challenges in terms of achieving a sufficiently high output power, efficiency etc. within a small device area, especially when moving up in frequency.
  • The design, building and testing of GaN MMIC technological demonstrators for different frequency bands and applications with the aim to demonstrate the capacity of the new technologies in terms of power efficiency, linearity and time recovery. Investigation, design and analysis of novel structures and topologies for the MMIC design, in order to fulfil the requirements for high-end defence applications such as but not limited to AESA, EW, robust communication systems, SatCom.
  • Investigation of new methods for packaging, including low cost plastic packaging and heterogeneous integration of GaN MMICs with other active technologies (BiCMOS, SiGe, CMOS, GaAs) and passive technologies (combiners, circulators, filters) in a same package. This System in Package (SiP) approach will enable a more integrated level for these devices, moving from the concept of TR module to TR channel.
  • Assessment of Wafer based Level Packaging (WLP) technology applied to RF sensors SiP.
  • Development of complements to make the WLP technology compliant with defence specifications for 2D and 3D integration.
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If you are already in a consortium, want to submit an application and need support to find a consortium or want to integrate an application already in preparation, please write to edf@iddportugal.pt