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MIT Lincoln Laboratory

MIT Lincoln Laboratory

MIT Lincoln Laboratory is a federally funded research and development center managed by MIT for the United States Department of Defense.


Founded in 1951, Lincoln Laboratory has developed technology for the defense, scientific, and industry communities. MIT Lincoln Laboratory researches and develops advanced technologies to meet national security needs. They also place an emphasis on building operational prototypes of the systems they design. The laboratory's focus is on long-term development and rapid system prototyping and demonstration in their key research areas.

Initially, the MIT Lincoln Laboratory had a goal to develop the United States's air defense system through advanced electronics. Since then, that mandate has expanded to include programs in space surveillance, missile defense, surface surveillance, air traffic control, object identification, communications, homeland protection, high-performance computing, and reconnaissance.

Research and development areas
Advanced technology

Under the area of advanced technology, the MIT Lincoln Laboratory works to research and develop technology focused on new materials, devices, and components to enable new system capabilities in the areas of imagers, lasers, quantum computing, microsystems, radio-frequency technology, and chemical sensors. MIT Lincoln Laboratory has developed powerful telescopes and cameras for the defense and scientific communities, charge-coupled-device imagers for astronomical instruments, single-photon-sensitive imagers for foliage-penetrating lidar systems, and digital-pixel focal plane arrays for infrared cameras.

Air traffic control

Since 1971, the MIT Lincoln Laboratory has developed new technology for air traffic control to support the Federal Aviation Administration and the increase in safety and security of air travel. This has included the developing of systems for aircraft surveillance, weather sensing, collision avoidance, decision support, and air traffic management automation.

Air, missile, and maritime defense technology

The MIT Lincoln Laboratory has developed and assessed systems for defense against missiles and related threats. This has been on the strength of the laboratories expertise in developing radar, electronic warfare, and system-of-systems technologies, and has included the development of system architectures, advanced sensor and decision support systems, field measurements, deployed system capabilities, advanced signal processing, and electronic protection systems for land, shipboard, and airborne sensors.

Biotechnology and human systems

The MIT Lincoln Laboratory conducts research into biotechnology and human systems to improve the human condition in many different scenarios. This has included developing technology and systems to enhance disaster response capabilities, address impacts of climate change, defend against biological and chemical threats, and improve the health and performance of the nation's service members and civilians.

Communication systems

To help the United States Military protect its communication capabilities, and to expand those capabilities, the Laboratory develops systems and technology for communication networks and explores how to make satellite communications, how to make longer and faster datalinks in space, and how to improve tactical radios for combat scenarios. Many of these technologies are based on optical and laser communications technologies.

Cyber security and information sciences

The Laboratory works to research, develop, evaluate, and deploy tools and systems for secure national security missions and systems from cyber attacks. This includes the development of advanced hardware, software, artificial intelligence algorithms, and systems for extracting information from a range of multimedia sources—including speech, imagery, text, and network traffic, even under adverse conditions.


In the field of engineering, the laboratory builds prototypes for ground, air, and space systems and applications. This includes hardware systems developed for testing new concepts, prototypes for demonstrating new capabilities, and operational systems for addressing military needs. The goal is to develop systems that can accomplish real-world objectives in unpredictable and challenging surroundings.

Homeland protection

To help with the US government and its remit to secure the nation from any and all threats it faces, the Laboratory offers assessment, prototyping, and deploying technology for the reduction of any vulnerability and protect infrastructure. This includes artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies developed for national security needs, such as securing transportation networks or energy systems.

ISR systems and technologies

For intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems and technology, the Laboratory conducts research and development in electro-optical and infrared sensors and the development of field-deployable active and passive imaging and remote-sensing systems. And they work to develop decision support technology, embedded computing systems capable of gathering ISR information.

Space systems and technology

The laboratory works to develop technology for the contested space domain and the related challenges of exploring that area. This includes the design, prototyping, operation, and assessment of systems capable of tracking, detecting, identifying, and characterizing space objects that could be extended to conventional conflict in space and to develop systems capable of providing mission resilience in space.

Tactical systems

The laboratory also develops technologies for tactical use, such as countering threats to United States forces, including the development of tactical airborne and counterterrorism systems through systems analysis, rapid prototyping, and instrumented tests. This includes the development of technology agnostic solutions to the challenges and intelligence needs of the United States military.

Technology Office

The Technology Office in the MIT Lincoln Laboratory is focused on promoting research and development into future technologies, including the development of projects in emerging technologies with applications for national security. This includes developing an environment to foster innovation and collaboration through the laboratory's environment for long-term technical excellence and relevance.

The Technology Office and the Artificial Intelligence Group have established research and development in AI across all other capability areas to expand the usefulness of AI and the capabilities of those other technologies. The Technology Office also works to maintain an awareness of evolving technologies and applicable national security problems, and the office interacts with the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, among other government agencies, to ensure the research and development being conducted remains relevant and pushing emerging technologies.


The MIT Lincoln Laboratory's history begins in the Laboratory's establishment in 1951 as a federally funded research and development center managed by MIT on behalf of the Department of Defense. During the 1950s, the MIT Lincoln Laboratory developed the United States' first air defense system, the laboratory pioneered the use of computers for data analysis, and worked to develop the applications and abilities of computing and expanding the possible applications of technology for national security and to aid in international humanitarian efforts.

Other solutions MIT Lincoln Laboratory has developed include the ground and space terminals that enabled the fastest data downloads from NASA satellites orbiting the moon; the first dual-band radar offering high-resolution, long-range imaging sensors; and a beam-combing laser that achieved the highest brightness recorded.


November 17, 2021
Army Partners with MIT Lincoln Lab on Voice Analysis Program to Detect Brain Injury
December 16, 2020
DHS, MIT Lincoln Lab partner to conduct public transit virus mitigation tests.
October 26, 2020
MIT Lincoln Laboratory creates the first trapped-ion quantum chip with fully integrated photonics
August 26, 2020
MIT Lincoln Lab develops rapid agent aerosol detector.
October 11, 2019
Blue Canyon Technologies is selected for MIT Lincoln Laboratory Agile MicroSatellite Mission
September 26, 2019
MIT Lincoln Laboratory Supercomputing Center installs world's fastest supercomputer at a University, powered by NVIDIA V100 GPUs
July 2019
MIT Lincoln Laboratory has been developing germanium imagers for x-ray and NIR-band imaging.
April 26, 2019
MIT Lincoln Lab to conduct advanced technology research and development under $2 billion Air Force contract modification
September 11, 2018
MIT Lincoln Laboratory develops AI that shows its decision-making process
May 22, 2018
Air Force and MIT-LL further waveform development through partnership



Further Resources


Advanced Imager Technology Development at MIT Lincoln Laboratory

Vyshnavi Suntharalingam, Barry E. Burke, James Gregory, Robert K. Reich


October 16, 2009

MIT Lincoln Laboratory Creates The First Trapped-Ion Quantum Chip With Fully Integrated Photonics

Moor Insights and Strategy


October 26, 2020

MIT Lincoln Laboratory Supercomputing Center Installs World's Fastest Supercomputer at a University, powered by NVIDIA V100 GPUs | NVIDIA Developer Blog


September 26, 2019

The Lab That's Worked to Keep the Nation Safe since the 1950s


October 26, 2021


October 28, 2019
Using a supercomputing system, MIT researchers have developed a model that captures what web traffic looks like around the world on a given day, which can be used as a measurement tool for internet research and many other applications. Understanding web traffic patterns at such a large scale, the researchers say, is useful for informing internet policy, identifying and preventing outages, defending against cyberattacks, and designing more efficient computing infrastructure. A paper descri...


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