Hypres, UMass partner to link low-power superconductors to standard electronics

ELMSFORD, New York. Superconductor IC maker HYPRES recently partnered with the University of Massachusetts Amherst to accomplish a high-speed, energy-efficient digital data link between superconducting ICs and standard room-temperature electronics.

The project -- conducted under a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) project sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) -- developed a hybrid temperature heterogeneous technology (HTHT) that distributes the necessary amplification among multiple temperature-distributed stages to optimize the overall data link.

“Our approach was to start with the fastest superconductor output driver and connect it to a chain of cryogenic semiconductor amplifiers at different temperatures between 4K and 300K,” said Dr. Deepnarayan Gupta, president of HYPRES’ Digital-RF Circuits and Systems business division and the principal investigator of the project. “We have already reached 20 Gbps data rates per link using this approach, which is better than 14 Gbps data links achieved without any cryogenic semiconductor amplification. We are now working toward enhancing the data link rate as well as expanding the number of simultaneous channels with both electrical and optical approaches. Better data links are vitally important to the next generation of our Advanced Digital- (ADR) product line as well as for future applications, such as streaming high-speed data processing, for which superconductor electronics offer compelling solutions.”

The key technology in the HTHT data link was developed by professor Joseph Bardin’s group at UMass Amherst. “We pursued two alternative designs, both using silicon-germanium bipolar transistors.” Bardin explained. “At cryogenic temperatures, these transistors produce higher gain and higher speeds. Through a careful design process, we have optimized the tradeoff between speed and power consumption for our cryogenic integrated circuits. Both designs have met our target performance metrics and now offer different alternatives to HYPRES’ system engineers.”

ONR program officer Dr. Deborah Van Vechten stated: “ONR encourages partnerships between university research groups and small businesses to harness innovative ideas into practical products. This team has moved through the different phases successfully and has attracted external funding to augment the STTR investment. The HTHT data link is now ready for transition.”

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