In writing this week's newsletter, a story of interest came from an old friend concerning a often quiet but innovative superconducting technology company (see the news below), Hypres, Inc. (Elmsford, NY). The firm had recently received a strong vote of support from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) for the possible use of its high-frequency superconducting receiver and analog-to-digital-converter (ADC) technologies in a wide range of military systems, from secure communications systems to electronic-warfare (EW) systems.
Superconducting technology, with its need for super-cooled operating temperatures and cryocoolers, has long been viewed by skeptics as too "exotic" for commercial use, although Hypres did make a brief run during the 1980s with a superconductor-based signal analyzer for commercial consumption. For the most part, however, commercial users, such as wireless service providers, would prefer a "set and forget" technology, such as standard "room-temperature" RF/microwave electronics.
However, for the "exotic" uses to which the military will put a technology, such as electronic-warfare (EW) and signal-intelligence (SIGINT) systems, superconducting circuits may be a perfect match. Those tradeoffs between the occasional maintenance required to keep the circuits cold, and the low noise and outstanding signal sensitivity possible with those circuits, may work to the benefits of many military electronics systems. Time, and the ONR, will tell.