Feature Stories

Ultra Cool

Characterizing cryogenically cooled electronics
  • closeup of integrated circuit in red and yellow
There is a current need for complex cryogenic integrated circuits. This grant will allow Bardin's team to continue their research in ultra-sensitive wide-band electronic systems for both scientific and commercial applications.
Ultra-sensitive wide-band electronic systems have wide-ranging scientific and commercial applications in radio astronomy, quantum communications, and ultra-high speed digital systems. With a major equipment grant, UMass Amherst electrical and computer engineer Joseph Bardin is poised to develop new cutting-edge research applications.

The $844,000 equipment grant from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP) will be used to purchase a testbed that allows the Bardin research group to thoroughly characterize superconducting and semiconducting circuits at extremely low cryogenic temperatures. 

“Achieving cutting-edge performance for current and future applications will always require the use of cryogenically cooled electronics. Today there is a need for complex cryogenic integrated circuits, and at UMass Amherst we are currently exploring a variety of research in the area of cryogenic circuit and system design,” says Bardin.

This new ONR DURIP equipment grant will help Bardin’s Radiofrequency Nano-electronics Group continue to conduct state-of-the-art research in the general area of ultra-sensitive wide-band electronic systems for both scientific and commercial applications.

“This project will enable the acquisition of a set of tools that will greatly improve our ability to carry out this research. Specifically, the funds will enable the purchase of a testbed that enables the thorough characterization of superconducting and semiconducting circuits using time domain stimuli,” says Bardin.

Instruments to be purchased include a modular 4 K cooling system, a high-speed arbitrary waveform generator, a pair of digitizers, and a bit-error-rate test set.

“These new tools,” Bardin says, “will provide a unique ability to characterize circuits and systems at cryogenic temperatures and will ultimately position our research group to carry out a new line of advanced research.”

Bardin has a strong track record of funding for his groundbreaking research in cryogenic electronics. In 2014, Bardin received a five-year grant of approximately $400,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program to improve the cryogenic electronics used in scientific instruments, thereby enabling new and more powerful experimental tools for scientific researchers. The research focus of Bardin’s CAREER project is to design novel broadband silicon circuits, operating at ultra-low power dissipation and cooled to cryogenic temperatures, thereby boosting the information-gathering capabilities of current, cryogenically-cooled scientific instruments by a factor of ten.

The equipment grant represents the second largest award received by Bardin from the ONR this year. He was one of 36 faculty members across the country named as recipients of the Office of Naval Research 2015 Young Investigator Program award for his proposal, Superconducting Nanowire Quantum Samplers. (That ONR grant amounted to $510,000 for three years).

Bardin’s ONR Young Investigators project is creating a device that is able to read the number of photons in an optical pulse. This measuring tool is considered to be one of the essential building blocks for constructing powerful new computers, based on quantum mechanical systems, and capable of working out massive problems that cannot be solved using conventional computers or communication systems of any other type.

College of Engineering News