DARPA CHIPs program seeks miniature, modular 'chiplets'

DARPA has a new program called CHIPS, which is short for Common Heterogenous Integration and Intellectual Property Reuse Strategies Program. A mouthful, right? CHIPS seeks innovation as complex as the name behind the acronym: the taking of modern printed circuit boards and doing away with them via the development of miniature, modular "chiplets." Says DARPA, it wants "an entire PCB" to be condensed down into a single device that is about the size of one present-day chip.

DARPA doesn't say exactly why it wants these chips, but does state that they could be used in future computing efforts that require a lot of data to be moved quickly, things like using computers to pick out specific objects from live video feeds at an efficient rate. The modular chip system DARPA envisions will make it possible for data to move between chips more quickly than current technologies allow for.

The research agency is referring to these modular chips as 'chiplets,' and it foresees a future in which commercial chiplets are made available. A whole library of them could one day be offered, with each chiplet being designed to perform a specific function. CHIPS program manager Dr. Daniel Green said, "The program is all about devising a physical library of component chips, or chiplets, that we can assemble in a modular fashion."

At this point, DARPA has made public a Request for Information in which it seeks ideas from experts; the agency plans to work "with a community" on the CHIPS program. Later on this summer, DARPA plans to have a workshop for the program, and later on it will make a formal Broad Agency Announcement with specific program goals.