Portable Electronic Cooling

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) is seeking information on research efforts in the area of cooling systems for small mobile devices. This request for information (RFI) is issued solely for information gathering and planning purposes; this RFI does not constitute a formal solicitation for proposals. The following sections of this announcement contain details of the scope of technical efforts of interest, along with instructions for the submission of responses.

Background & Scope

Both the processing power available and the number of sensors that are available in, or linkable to, smartphones has increased exponentially in recent years. Today, smartphones can be commercially obtained with built-in capability to function as microphones, cameras, proximity sensors, ambient light sensors, motion sensors, gyroscopes, accelerometers, magnetometers (digital compasses), thermometers, humidity sensors, barometers, heart rate monitors, pulse oximeters, laser range finders, barcode scanners, and Geiger counters. Plug-in or wireless attachments for smartphones are commercially available that convert the devices into anemometers, temperature probes, digital stethoscopes, electrocardiograms (EKGs) and Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometers (FTIRs), among others.

Additionally, the intrinsic connectivity, processing power, and proliferation of specialized apps and smartphone compatible software makes smartphones excellent candidates to use as components of distributed and mobile sensing networks of many kinds. For example, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Activity (DARPA) SIGMA program has demonstrated a distributed network of handheld and vehicle-based radiation detectors that uses in part cell phone processing and connectivity to produce a scalable network system for continuous, real-time nuclear and radiological threat monitoring. The current DARPA SIGMA+ program is expanding on this model to include a network of chemical and biological sensors. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Assistant for Understanding Data through Reasoning, Extraction, and Synthesis (AUDREY) tool connect[s] with sensors on first responder’s personal protective equipment (PPE) and with information provided by the Internet of Things (IoT) through a suite of plugin tools, uses artificial intelligence to process the input data, then automatically provide[s] individually curated insight to those on the ground while delivering global situational awareness to incident response managers.

IARPA’s SILMARILS and MAEGLIN programs are developing compact sensor hardware for chemical detection on surfaces and in the gas phase, respectively. These sensors will need real-time processing capability, and have the potential to be deployed in a variety of mobile and stationary networked configurations to meet the requirements of a number of different chemical detection scenarios. The use of smartphones for local processing and/or sensor network connectivity is a likely use case scenario for both of these IARPA efforts, as well as a number of other Department of Defense and Homeland Security applications.

The use of smartphones both for their intrinsic capabilities (processing, data streaming, GPS), and as processors for other compact sensors can place a significant thermal burden on the smartphone’s electronics, especially when the phone is operated under challenging ambient conditions, such as inside of a stationary vehicle without climate control. According to Society of Automotive Engineers publications, when temperatures outside range from 80 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature inside a car parked in direct sunlight can quickly climb to between 114 and 170 degrees Fahrenheit.1 And the internal temperature of a smartphone under steady use can be significantly hotter than the ambient temperature. A phone used as a processor for a vehicle mounted sensor would quite likely be in use in a parked car. Additionally, even if a smartphone is powered off and simply stored in a hot vehicle, irreversible battery damage is likely at temperatures over 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and at temperatures approaching 170 degrees Fahrenheit the battery may rupture, catch fire, or even explode, leading to destruction of the phone, associated sensors, and even the vehicle it was left in.

This RFI seeks novel, and aesthetically complimentary form factor approaches to a cooling solution for mobile devices, such as smart phones. The cooling solution must be designed to both mitigate the internal heat load from the device’s electronics under heavy use conditions, and shield the device from high ambient temperatures, up to 170 degrees Fahrenheit. If the proposed cooling solution requires power, the power must be supplied within the form factor of the device, i.e. the cooling solution cannot tap the phone’s battery. Creative cooling solutions that do not use power are strongly encouraged. In the questions below the choice of a specific set of phone types and a specific high-processor-use application are intended to provide a defined internal heat load for calculation purposes, not to limit the brands or styles of smartphones that the cooling solution would be applicable to, or the types of processing that the cooling solution could enable.

Responses to this RFI should answer all of the following questions:

  1. Clearly describe the technical basis of the proposed cooling solution. Please include a block diagram or notional sketch.
  2. Describe how the proposed solution would couple to the mobile device.
  3. Using the proposed solution approach, describe the size and weight of the device necessary to cool a mobile phone such as the Moto G5 Plus or Samsung Galaxy S8+ while running an application over the cellular network that utilizes consistent network bandwidth at data rates of at least 1.5Mbps and placed in a 170 degree Fahrenheit environment for 8 hours without causing the phone to display an overheating warning or shut down the application.
  4. List any consumables used in or byproducts produced by the proposed cooling solutions.
  5. List any potentially hazardous materials used as reactants or produced as byproducts of the cooling device, and describe how the hazard will be contained/mitigated if the smartphone is operated in a confined space, such as a car, plane, or house.
  6. Describe whether the proposed cooling solution is a single use disposable system, or multi-use. If multi-use, describe the process to reset/recharge.

Preparation Instructions to Respondents

IARPA requests that respondents submit ideas related to this topic for use by the Government in formulating a potential program. IARPA requests that submittals briefly and clearly describe the potential approach or concept, outline critical technical issues/obstacles, describe how the approach may address those issues/obstacles and comment on the expected performance and robustness of the proposed approach. If appropriate, respondents may also choose to provide a non-proprietary rough order of magnitude (ROM) estimate regarding what such approaches might require in terms of funding and other resources for one or more years. This announcement contains all of the information required to submit a response. No additional forms, kits, or other materials are needed.

IARPA appreciates responses from all capable and qualified sources from within and outside of the US. Because IARPA is interested in an integrated approach, responses from teams with complementary areas of expertise are encouraged.

Responses have the following formatting requirements:

  1. A one page cover sheet that identifies the title, organization(s), respondent's technical and administrative points of contact - including names, addresses, phone and fax numbers, and email addresses of all co-authors, and clearly indicating its association with RFI-19-02;
  2. A substantive, focused, one-half page executive summary;
  3. A description (limited to 5 pages in minimum 12 point Times New Roman font, appropriate for single-sided, single-spaced 8.5 by 11 inch paper, with 1-inch margins) of the technical challenges and suggested approach(es);
  4. A list of citations (any significant claims or reports of success must be accompanied by citations);
  5. Optionally, a single overview briefing chart graphically depicting the key ideas.

Submission Instructions to Respondents

Responses to this RFI are due no later than 5 p.m., Eastern Time, on January 14. All submissions must be electronically submitted to dni-iarpa-rfi-19-02@iarpa.gov as a PDF document. Inquiries to this RFI must be submitted to dni-iarpa-rfi-19-02@iarpa.gov. Do not send questions with proprietary content. No telephone inquiries will be accepted.

Disclaimers and Important Notes

This is an RFI issued solely for information and planning purposes and does not constitute a solicitation. Respondents are advised that IARPA is under no obligation to acknowledge receipt of the information received, or provide feedback to respondents with respect to any information submitted under this RFI.

Responses to this notice are not offers and cannot be accepted by the Government to form a binding contract. Respondents are solely responsible for all expenses associated with responding to this RFI. IARPA will not provide reimbursement for costs incurred in responding to this RFI. It is the respondent's responsibility to ensure that the submitted material has been approved for public release by the information owner.

The Government does not intend to award a contract on the basis of this RFI or to otherwise pay for the information solicited, nor is the Government obligated to issue a solicitation based on responses received. Neither proprietary nor classified concepts or information should be included in the submittal. Input on technical aspects of the responses may be solicited by IARPA from non-Government consultants/experts who are bound by appropriate non-disclosure requirements.

Contracting Office Address:

Office of the Director of National Intelligence
Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity
Washington, District of Columbia 20511
United States

Primary Point of Contact:

Dr. Kristin DeWitt
Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity


Posted Date: November 30, 2018
Responses Due: January 14, 2018