Fast, flexible signal readout with high resolution


Ditigal system with COTS FPGA boards with FMC DAC and ADC sister boards

Technology abstract

This research organisation has developed a 2 GHz analogue bandwidth readout which is fast, flexible, has a high resolution and extremely low noise.
The readout can be used for all kind of applications like Software Defined Radio, Cognitive Radar and/or high-end Parallel Network Analysers. The readout can be fully tuned to the desired application, by adapting the software and firmware in the digital system. Poss. to adapt, build & test the high frequency (RF) system for the desired application.

Technology Description

The research organization offers to co-develop the existing 2 GHz bandwidth prototype toward the desired application in the area of SDR, cognitive radar, etc.

The current system is based on frequency multiplexing in a complex carrier signal consisting of 2^19 frequencies, giving a frequency resolution of 3.8 kHz with -94 dBc noise. The readout speed is 160 Hz, but high speeds can be obtained at the costs of lower frequency resolution (2^16 frequencies at 1.2 kHz, giving a frequency resolution of 30.5 kHz).

For this system, state of the art RF modules are developed which transfer the baseband signal to 2 GHz band in the range of 2 to 8 GHz and back to baseband by mixing the baseband signal with the output of a local oscillator. After digitalization of the signal, advanced signal processing capabilities are present (e.g. FFT, filter banks, data reduction). All signal processing is done in large FPGAs, giving a fast and flexible system.
Data is transferred to a PC by means of a fast optical network, for display and further analysis of the data.

The system is a built with commercially available components, making it possible to downscale in size or costs if desired. Also the flexibility of firmware and software offer possibilities for further developments towards new applications.
The current set-up fits 2 19” racks and has potential to miniaturize substantially, depending on the applications requirements.

Innovations & Advantages

The developed system has an extremely broad analogue bandwidth with extremely low noise. To date (2016), there exists no other system meeting these specifications.
The bandwidth of this system would allow for less (FM) hardware in SDR like applications, reducing costs of such SDR applications. The flexibility allows the readout to be tuned as desired without hardware impact.

Further Information

The current system is developed with performance in mind. Possibilities exists to reduce the footprint, power consumption and costs. Part of the system makes use of COTS electronics. The RF part stems from dedicated development at the research institute, as does the firmware and software. This readout is tested for use on ground based telescopes.

Current and Potential Domains of Application

Currently, this readout is targeted at the Kinetic Inductance Detector as used in telescopes for astronomical observations.

Other application domains include:
• Software Defined Radio
• Cognitive Radar
• Wireless Network Analysis
• Frequency Modulated detection