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Micro Cryogenic Coolers (MCC)

Published on AidPage by IDILOGIC on Jun 24, 2005
Administered by:

Department of Defense, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Contracts Management Office
(see all US Federal Agencies)

Explore all postings for this grant program:
  • Original Grant - Jan 11, 2005
Applications Due:

Apr 8, 2005

total funding: Not Available
max award: none
min award: none
cost sharing, matching: No
number of awards: Not Available
type of funding: Cooperative Agreement, Grant, Other, Procurement Contract

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is soliciting research proposals in the area of Micro Cryogenic Coolers (MCC). The proposed research should investigate innovative approaches that enable revolutionary advances in science, devices, or systems. Specifically excluded is research that primarily results in evolutionary improvement to the existing state-of-practice.

DARPA seeks innovative proposals in the area of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) implementations of MCC, with the ultimate objective being the realization of micro-scale devices and sub-systems with unprecedented performance, attained via micro-scale targeted cryogenic cooling of only the needed volume/device to reduce both the size and power consumption required for cooling. By harnessing the advantages of micro-scale miniaturization, the MCC program is expected to yield tiny, targeted cryogenic cooling systems capable of:

(1) heat loads only a small fraction of that presented by non-targeted approaches, with ultimate heat load values from 10?s of microwatts to a few milliwatts, depending upon the chosen device application;
(2) cooling time constants from nanoseconds to microseconds, where needed, and depending upon the requirements of the chosen device application;
(3) cooling mechanism power consumption less than 100 mW (the smaller the better, and less than 10mW should be possible for some applications);
(4) cooler heat lift greater than 10 mW;
(5) cooling to 160K or lower, depending upon the requirements of the chosen application;
(6) overall sub-systems size less than 4 cc, not including power source, but including control electronics and any required device packaging;
(7) a substantial increase in DoD-relevant application performance (e.g., LNA noise figure less than 0.1dB, resonator Q greater than 1,000,000, IR detector array sensitivity improved by 10x, gyro bias stability improved to surpass navigation-grade requirements, etc.) or outright enabling of DoD-relevant applications (e.g., quenched freezing of tiny bio-samples, etc.); and
(8) maintaining cryogenically-attained superior performance over a -40 degrees C to 85 degrees C temperature range.

Note that the above are merely meant to provide rough order of magnitude expectations of what is ultimately deemed possible by the end of the MCC program, and are not to be construed as rigid program specifications.

MCC realizations that utilize MEMS-based technologies to isolate the specific device(s) that need cryogenic cooling into sizes of 100?s of microns or less are of particular interest, since it is expected that micro-scale miniaturization to reduce radiation and conduction losses will be instrumental in sufficiently reducing heat loads to values that allow coolers with very small heat lifts. Among the isolation technologies, approaches, and activities, expected to be beneficial in this endeavor are: (1) identification/development of micromachinable materials that possess the needed material properties (e.g., emissivities, thermal conductivities, elastic constants, etc.) at cryogenic temperatures; (2) micro-scale ultra-high vacuum encapsulation; (3) micro-platforms on which the specific devices to be cooled are mounted or directly integrated upon, that are small enough to allow long thin supports with enormous thermal resistances, and tiny total surface areas for minimal radiation loss; (4) advanced shielding techniques to minimize thermal loss (e.g., photonic bandgap structures, nano-gaps, etc.); (5) staged isolation structures (e.g., double or triple isolations) to mitigate thermal loss mechanisms that exhibit nonlinear temperature dependencies; and (6) for arrayed applications, balancing of large and small thermal resistances and capacitances to allow extremely fast cooling time constants.

Miniature cryogenic coolers, of course, are also of great interest to the MCC program. Given that MCC heat loads should be many times smaller than seen in typical macroscopic cryogenic systems, the micro-scale cooling mechanisms required for MCC will likely not require large heat lift capabilities. This might help to offset potential cooling efficiency losses in some cooling approaches (e.g., due to detrimental surface-to-volume increases with miniaturization). Note, however, that cooling efficiency might not be the most important consideration in a given application; rather, the total power and size required for cooling is of higher importance to the MCC program. As such, if the heat load presented by a properly isolated device is made low enough via the aforementioned MEMS-based isolation technology, then the efficiency of the cooler need not be high as long as the overall power required to cool is small enough (e.g., less than 30mW) to allow portable operation for lengthy periods. This is not to say that efficiency is not important; for applications where the heat load remains significant, even after measures are taken to target the cooling, cooler efficiency will obviously still be very important. In addition, solutions that achieve the minimal power consumption will likely be the most attractive as long as their size is also small. In this respect, a power-size product might comprise a good metric with which to gauge the efficacy of a given approach. Whatever the metric used, the simultaneous emphasis on power consumption and size by the MCC program, together with its ability to reduce heat loads for various applications, greatly expands the set of usable cooling technologies, to the point where historically inefficient methods might actually become the most effective on the proposed micro-scale. Among the cooling approaches expected to be amenable to MCC implementation are: (1) mechanical cooling approaches (e.g., using compressors, heat exchangers, Joule-Thompson plugs, etc.); (2) thermoelectric coolers, perhaps embedded in the aforementioned isolation structures; and (3) laser cooling approaches that might be most amenable to arrayed applications. Possible research activities pursuant to micro-cryogenic cooler implementation might include: (1) implementation of effective and reliable micro-scale valves, heat exchangers, plugs, and expansion chambers; (2) realization of tiny, efficient, low-power compressors, perhaps using radically different approaches than used at the macro-scale; (3) isolation strategies for cooler structures and mechanisms; (4) implementation of micro-scale heat sinks; (5) thermoelectric cooler stacking (or staging) at the micro-scale, and incorporation into isolation structures; (5) development of micromachinable, energy-absorbent materials for laser cooling; (6) development of methods for efficiently removing heat carrying photons from isolated structures in laser cooled systems; and (7) demonstration of methods for sequenced distribution (i.e., raster scanning) of cooling for arrayed applications.

Perhaps the most compelling driver behind the MCC program is the continuing need for the highest performance in DoD systems, and the fact that cryogenic cooling has long been used to substantially increase the performance of systems important to the DoD. Among the applications that greatly benefit from operation at cryogenic temperatures are: cooled IR detectors for heat seeking missiles and night vision; low noise amplifiers (LNA?s) for ultra-sensitive, long-range communications, such as needed for deep space applications; front-end passives in communication systems, again, for ultra-sensitive communications; a myriad of sensors that have substantially lower noise floors and improved stability when operated at cryogenic temperatures, including and especially sensors for inertial navigation; and next generation nano-scale devices, such as atom optical inertial sensors and timing references, single electron transistors, bio-sampling devices, and other nano-applications that operate best at cryogenic temperatures.

Despite substantially higher performance levels provided by cryogenic cooling, an increasing number of DoD systems are exploring alternative methods that allow operation without the need for cryogenic cooling, mainly to circumvent its rather large size and power requirements. Unfortunately, the performance compromise imposed by uncooled renditions of originally cooled applications (e.g., uncooled IR detectors) often leaves users wanting in numerous applications. As a consequence, a cryogenic cooling system that could be realized in a small size while consuming very little power is highly desirable.

MEMS technology presents an opportunity to provide such a cooling system for a subset of applications where the performance of a single device or a single circuit determines the overall performance of a much larger system. For example, the noise figure (i.e., sensitivity) of a communication receiver is often determined largely by the noise generated from the input transistor of its low-noise amplifier (LNA). As another example, the resolution of a vibratory gyroscope is often governed by either the Brownian noise in its proof mass or by the noise generated by the input device of its sense amplifier; and its bias stability is often governed by the Q of its resonator element. In both of these cases, front-end noise can be reduced by merely operating the critical device (i.e., the single transistor, or the single resonant proof mass) at a much lower, preferably cryogenic, temperature. Furthermore, again in both cases, only a tiny area need actually be cooled to cryogenic temperatures to affect significant performance advantages; the rest of the system can function at ambient temperature. Methods for selective cooling of elements within an array (e.g., for IR detection) may also be feasible.

DARPA strongly encourages well-coordinated, interdisciplinary research and development activities that take into consideration all significant and relevant engineering tradeoffs and optimizations. Teaming among academic, industrial and/or government partners is encouraged, and it is anticipated that the contributions of the team members are complementary as well as essential to the critical path of the research plan. A technology insertion plan is encouraged and research that holds promise of insertion into Department of Defense (DoD) relevance is of great interest.


The Micro Cryogenic Coolers (MCC) program will consist of a Phase I effort (e.g., 18 months) followed by an optional Phase II (e.g., 18 months), and finally a Phase III (e.g., 18 months) for those efforts that appear to have the greatest potential for production, insertion, transition or overall benefit to the DoD. Awards are expected to be made during the third and fourth quarter of fiscal year 2005. Organizations wishing to participate in Phase II and Phase III should include them as options in their proposal (separate options for each phase). Multiple awards are anticipated. The formation of multi-disciplinary teams consisting of industry, academia, and/or national laboratories with complementary areas of expertise is strongly encouraged, especially given the sub-system flavor of the MGA program. A web site?http://teaming.sysplan.com/BAA-05-15/ has been established to facilitate formation of teaming arrangements between interested parties. Specific content, communications, networking, and team formation are the sole responsibility of the participants. Neither DARPA nor the Department of Defense (DoD) endorses the destination web site or the information and organizations contained therein, nor does DARPA or the DoD exercise any responsibility at the destination. This web site is provided consistent with the stated purpose of this BAA. Cost sharing is not required and is not an evaluation criterion, but is encouraged where there is a reasonable probability of a potential commercial application related to the proposed research and development effort. Questions concerning this BAA may be directed to the technical POC for this effort, Dr. Clark T.-C. Nguyen, phone: (571) 218-4586, fax: (703) 696-2206, electronic mail: cnguyen@darpa.mil


Offerors must obtain a pamphlet entitled ?BAA 05-15, Micro Cryogenic Coolers, Proposer Information Pamphlet? which provides further information on Micro Cryogenic Coolers, the submission, evaluation, and funding processes, proposal abstract formats, proposal formats, and other general information. This pamphlet may be obtained from the FedBizOpps website: http://www.fedbizopps.gov/, World Wide Web (WWW) at URL http://www.darpa.mil/ or by fax, electronic mail, or mail request to the administrative contact address given below. Proposals not meeting the format described in the pamphlet may not be reviewed. In order to minimize unnecessary effort in proposal preparation and review, offerors are strongly encouraged to submit proposal abstracts in advance of full proposals. An original and seven (7) copies of the proposal abstract and 2 electronic copies (i.e., 2 separate disks) of the abstract [in PDF (preferred), or MS-Word readable, each on a single 3.5 inch High Density MS-DOS formatted 1.44 Megabyte (MB) diskette, a single 100 MB Iomega Zip (registered) disk, or a CD-ROM] should be submitted. Each disk must be clearly labeled with BAA 05-15, offeror organization, proposal title (short title recommended), and Copy __ of 2. The proposal abstract (original and designated number of hard and electronic copies) must be submitted to DARPA/MTO, 3701 North Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA 22203-1714 (Attn.: BAA 05-15) on or before 12:00 p.m., local time, Friday, February 18, 2005. Proposal abstracts received after this time and date may not be reviewed. Upon review, DARPA will provide written feedback on the likelihood of a full proposal being selected and the time and date for submission of a full proposal, which may differ from the originally published date below. Offerors not submitting proposal abstracts must submit an original and seven (7) copies of the full proposal and 2 electronic copies (i.e., 2 separate disks) of the full proposal [in PDF (preferred), or MS-Word readable, each on a single 3.5 inch High Density MS-DOS formatted 1.44 Megabyte (MB) diskette, a single 100 MB Iomega Zip (registered) disk, or a CD-ROM]. Each disk must be clearly labeled with BAA 05-15, offeror organization, proposal title (short title recommended), and Copy __ of 2. The full proposal (original and designated number of hard and electronic copies) must be submitted to DARPA/MTO, 3701 North Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA 22203-1714 (Attn.: BAA 05-15) and received by DARPA on or before 12:00 p.m., local time, Friday, April 8, 2005, in order to be considered during the initial round of selections; however, proposals received after this deadline may be received and evaluated up to one year from date of posting on FedBizOpps. Full proposals submitted after the due date specified in the BAA or due date otherwise specified by DARPA after review of proposal abstracts may be selected contingent upon the availability of funds. This notice, in conjunction with the BAA 05-15 Proposer Information Pamphlet, constitutes the total BAA. No additional information is available, nor will a formal RFP or other solicitation regarding this announcement be issued. Requests for the same will be disregarded. The Government reserves the right to select for award all, some, or none of the proposals received and to make awards without discussions. All responsible sources capable of satisfying the Government?s needs may submit a proposal which shall be considered by DARPA. Input on technical aspects of the proposals may be solicited by DARPA from non-Government consultants/experts who are bound by appropriate non-disclosure requirements. Non-Government technical consultants/experts will not have access to proposals that are labeled by their offerors as ?Government Only?. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Institutions (MIs) are encouraged to submit proposals and join others in submitting proposals; however, no portion of this BAA will be set aside for HBCU/ MI participation due to the impracticality of reserving discrete or severable areas of research in Micro Cryogenic Coolers.

All administrative correspondence and questions on this solicitation, including requests for information on how to submit a proposal abstract or full proposal to this BAA, should be directed to one of the administrative addresses below; e-mail or fax is preferred. DARPA intends to use electronic mail and fax for correspondence regarding BAA 05-15. Proposals and proposal abstracts may not be submitted by fax or e-mail; any so sent will be disregarded. DARPA encourages use of the WWW for retrieving the Proposer Information Pamphlet and any other related information that may subsequently be provided.


Evaluation of proposal abstracts and full proposals will be accomplished through a technical review of each proposal using the following criteria, which are listed in descending order of relative importance: (l) overall scientific and technical merit, (2) potential contribution and relevance to DARPA mission, (3) plans and capability to accomplish technology transition, (4) offeror's capabilities and related experience, and (5) cost realism. Note: cost realism will only be significant in proposals which have significantly under or over-estimated the cost to complete their effort.

The administrative addresses for this BAA are:

Fax: (703) 351-8710 (Addressed to: DARPA/MTO, BAA 05-15),

Electronic Mail: BAA05-15@darpa.mil

Mail: DARPA/MTO, ATTN: BAA 05-15
3701 North Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22203-1714

This announcement and the Proposer Information Pamphlet may be retrieved via the WWW at URL http://www.darpa.mil/ in the solicitations area.

Who can apply:


Eligible functional categories:
Funding Sources:

Research and Technology Development

More Information:

Micro Cryogenic Coolers (MCC)

If you have problems accessing the full announcement, please contact: Ulrey, Scott

Address Info:

Department of Defense, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Contracts Management Office

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