Xtremis to open high-tech telecommunications lab in Washington County

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 1,190 views 

Peter Volgyesi, Miklos Maroti, Peter Horvath and Sandor Szilvasi comprise the core research group and co-founders of Xtremis. The team has won two Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) challenges related to electromagnetic spectrum technology.

Technology startup Xtremis, in collaboration with the University of Arkansas, has plans to open a first-of-its-kind innovation campus for the rapid advancement of electromagnetic spectrum technologies.

It’s expected to position Northwest Arkansas as a center of research and economic development in the emerging field of electromagnetic spectrum technology.

The Devil’s Den Proving Ground in southern Washington County will transform the site of a former nuclear test reactor into an open-air laboratory to develop technologies to improve the performance and resilience of wireless devices and communications. An event to unveil plans for the Devil’s Den Proving Ground is set for April 22 at the UA. The U.S. Army Pathfinder program and Civil Military Innovation Institute are project supporters.

In August, the UA joined the Pathfinder program, an initiative overseen by the Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Army Research Laboratory and carried out by the Civil Military Innovation Institute. Pathfinder provides money for researchers to accelerate the development of new military systems through prototyping and real-world experiments. The UA’s initial Pathfinder work included collaborating with Xtremis to develop a new generation of spectrum technologies for the Army.

Kian Hassani, chief of staff of Xtremis, said the startup was spun out of Vanderbilt University in 2021 to commercialize technology from the university via a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) challenge program related to spectrum technologies.

According to Vanderbilt University, another Pathfinder program participant, technology Xtremis looks to commercialize comprises advanced dynamic spectrum reconnaissance, an artificial intelligence-enabled system that allows the Army’s wireless communications networks to sense and avoid enemy jamming and reduce radio frequency emissions that could allow adversaries to target Army forces.

Hassani said Xtremis is developing advanced radio technology, including AI-based cognitive radios, for commercial and military use. He said the core researchers of Xtremis won two DARPA spectrum challenges. Adam Jay Harrison is the startup’s founder and CEO.

Pasha Moore, project consultant for Xtremis, said the Xtremis office is in Washington, D.C. She said Xtremis has partnerships in Northwest Arkansas and West Virginia and a Nashville, Tenn., presence. Asked about the top goal of Xtremis’ partnership with the UA, Moore said it’s to see it endure and to find more challenges to solve together. Hassani said, “There’s a level of expertise available to us at the university that we have not found elsewhere.”

Xtremis has 20 staff, and this number is expected to steadily rise over the next two years, he said.

Xtremis plans to build the Devil’s Den Proving Ground at the former Southwest Experimental Fast Oxide Reactor (SEFOR) site in southern Washington County. The nearly 700-acre site formerly comprised a decommissioned 20-megawatt sodium-cooled nuclear test reactor.

The UA acquired the site after the reactor was closed in the early 1970s and has since cleaned the site. Property records show on Oct. 20 the UA sold Specter LLC more than 619 acres south and west of Arkansas highways 170 and 265 for $1.15 million. Moore said Specter is Xtremis.

“We’re redeveloping that site in three phases to…act as a proving ground for our technology and its iterations,” Hassani said. The site will include “dwellings for research teams that are rolling through as well as some staff.”

Moore said groundbreaking is expected this summer, and the phase one buildout plans comprise about 25,000 square feet. Phase one is expected to open in the second quarter of 2026 and include executive offices and some research that will be operational. The other phases are still being developed but should be completed by the second quarter of 2028. She declined to provide a project investment estimate. Site renderings will be available after the April 22 event.

Moore said Xtremis has staff in Northwest Arkansas who are working remotely. An interim office in Northwest Arkansas is expected to open this fall. Staff are also using UA facilities. Its researchers are at the UA College of Engineering.

Asked why Xtremis is partnering with the UA, Moore said, “The problem set that needed to be solved and the perfect people who could solve it reside in the College of Engineering at the University of Arkansas. That’s why we’re in Northwest Arkansas is because of the power and the research ability and the overall expertise of several individuals in the College of Engineering.”

Moore said the partnership has been in the works for more than two years, and she’s excited about the April 22 event because it will allow the company to showcase its plans for the site and its UA partnership.

“For the event itself, we have Congressman Steve Womack (R-Rogers), who has been a huge champion of ours and really supportive of our project, will be in attendance and talking about this event. We’re also excited to be able to use the expertise from Marlon Blackwell Architects to help design this entire facility. They’re going to talk about how great…innovative…and cool – this facility being 20-30 minutes south of the university – is going to be. We’re also going to have many representatives from the university in attendance as well.”

Samir El-Ghazaly, distinguished professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Arkansas, said he expects an agreement on the university’s involvement in the Devil’s Den Proving Ground between the UA and Xtremis will be signed by early summer.

Samir El-Ghazaly is a distinguished professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Arkansas

“The university wants to see this land and this deal support in bringing Xtremis, a high-tech company, to Northwest Arkansas, and this high-tech company will bring other supporting businesses with it and will create jobs,” he said. “That part is clear. The details of how we will achieve this – we’re still working on it.”

El-Ghazaly said he’s helping Xtremis on the project as a UA professor, but he’s unclear on how much or whether the UA will have ownership in the project.

“I am collaborating with them,” he said. “We are bringing significant funding from outside through a program called the Pathfinder…that’s funded by the U.S. Army. And through that funding, we will build an antenna test facility, which will consist of an…indoor anechoic chamber…an outdoor test range…and labs for testing electronic and telecommunication equipment.”

The number of university staff who will work at the Devil’s Den Proving Ground is uncertain, but he would expect professors, possibly research staff and some students who would work there part-time.

“Right now, we are reviewing the master agreement that will govern the activities that we’ll conduct with Xtremis,” he said. “The two sides have not fully shared the details of their future plans. Xtremis cannot share specific information with us until the umbrella agreement is signed. Because of that, we have expectations. They have expectations. We have not sat together to sign on the dotted line yet.”