Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory


FLC Region

Security Lab



244 Wood Street
Lexington, MA 02420-9108
United States

Laboratory Representative


The mission of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is "…to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world." As part of this mission, MIT has a long-standing commitment to the furtherance of technology in support of national security. MIT Lincoln Laboratory is one manifestation of MIT's ongoing involvement in this area, and the origins and history of the Laboratory provide a case study of MIT leaning forward when required for the service of the nation.

Lincoln Laboratory was established in 1951 to build the nation's first air defense system. However, its roots date back to the MIT Radiation Laboratory, which was formed out of the Physics Department during World War II to develop radar for the Allied war effort. The Rad Lab, in collaboration with scientists from Great Britain, developed the fundamental principles, technologies, and engineering designs for the microwave radar systems that effectively countered the Nazi airborne and submarine threats to the Allied Forces. At its peak, the Rad Lab employed 4000 staff and was responsible for the development and fielding of approximately half of the radar systems used in the war effort.

The explosion of the first Soviet atomic bomb in August 1949, followed by the Soviet development of bombers that could traverse the Arctic Circle, created a significant new security threat to the United States. In response to this threat, the Department of Defense commissioned MIT to take a leadership role in addressing this problem. The result was the establishment of MIT Lincoln Laboratory to design and develop the first air defense system for the United States. This system, designated the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment, or SAGE, was pioneering in its complexity and required numerous inventions, including digital computers, magnetic-core memory, large-scale computer programs, modems, and interactive graphical user interfaces, in order to come into being.

SAGE became fully operational in 1963, with 24 direction centers and 3 combat centers spread across the United States, and was in operation until 1983. Well before SAGE's decommissioning in 1983, the threat of Soviet bombers had been replaced by a new threat-intercontinental ballistic missiles-that required a new national focus and a new set of technical breakthroughs and developments. As the first project undertaken by Lincoln Laboratory, SAGE established a systems approach to the development of complex, large-scale systems that is still very much part of the Laboratory culture today.

Following the development of SAGE, Lincoln Laboratory moved on to address other missions and technologies critical to national security. A detailed history of Lincoln Laboratory, including its many technical contributions over the years, can be found in the book Lincoln Laboratory: Technology in Support of National Security.


As a Department of Defense Research and Development Laboratory, MIT Lincoln Laboratory conducts research and development aimed at solutions to problems critical to national security. In 2011, the Laboratory celebrated its 60th anniversary of service to the nation.

The areas that constitute the core of the work performed at Lincoln Laboratory are sensors, information extraction (signal processing and embedded computing), communications, and integrated sensing and decision support, all supported by a broad research base in advanced electronics.

Research at the Laboratory includes projects in air and missile defense, space surveillance technology, tactical systems, biological and chemical defense, homeland protection, communications, cyber security, and information sciences. The Laboratory takes projects from the initial concept stage, through simulation and analysis, to design and prototyping, and finally to field demonstration.

Technical staff perform tests on an unmanned aerial vehicle at the RF System Test Facility.

Two of the Laboratory's principal technical objectives are (1) the development of components and systems for experiments, engineering measurements, and tests under field operating conditions and (2) the dissemination of information to the government, academia, and industry.

Lincoln Laboratory also undertakes government-sponsored, nondefense projects in areas such as the development of systems the Federal Aviation Administration relies on to improve air-traffic control and air safety, systems that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration uses in weather surveillance, and systems the National Aeronautics and Space Administration employs in its space science missions.

The Laboratory is organized into eight technical divisions. While each division has specific focus areas, the Laboratory's mission-oriented work supports cross-divisional, multidisciplinary collaborations.

Tech Areas

Available Technologies
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A Method to Design and Prepare Graphene-based Nanocomposites with Multi-Functional Applications: Using In Silico Design to Guide Experimental Fabrication
A New Bayesian Method for High Resolution Nanoparticle Sizing in Single Particle Tracking
A Novel High Throughput Method for Automated Single-cell Identification and Capture in vitro
A Novel High Throughput Method for Automated Single-cell Identification and Capture in vitro
A Platform for the Transfer of Encrypted Information via DNA
A Platform for the Transfer of Encrypted Information via DNA
A Semi-Interpenetrating Network of a Polycation and Crosslinked Poly(vinyl alcohol) for OH-Conducting Membranes
Accurate Indoor Localization with Zero Start-up Cost
Accurate Indoor Localization with Zero Start-up Cost
Active Controlled Energy Absorber Using Responsive Fluids


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Airborne Test Bed Facility
Alcator C-Mod Tokamak
Environmental Test Laboratory
Hanscom Air Force Base
Integrated Weather and Air Traffic Control Decision Support Facilities
Lincoln Laboratory Grid
Lincoln Space Surveillance Complex
Machine Shop
Microelectronics Laboratory
Optical Systems Test Facility


No Equipment for this lab
No publications for this lab
No success stories for this lab