S. Nicholas Raines

Assistant Scientist

Department of Astronomy

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S.N. Raines
211 Bryant Space Science Center
Dept. of Astronommy
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611-2055, USA
phone: (352) 392-2052, ext. 244
raines at astro.ufl.edu

30 Doradus image from FLAMINGOS-2 Team, 2009 Sep 10

Transition Electronics Board Overcoming Windows

The Transition Electronics Board Overcoming Windows (TEBOW) project was a design study to investigate implementing a Teledyne Scientific & Imaging SIDECAR ASIC as our infrared focal plane array (FPA) controller while simultaneously replacing Teledyne's JADE2 interface card with one that eliminates the requirement for a Windows-OS computer within the instrument's control system.

Modern infrared FPAs only operate at cryogenic temperatures (7K to 77K) inside of a vacuum vessel. However, conventional control electronics for such arrays typically are complicated and physically large and reside outside of the cryogenic environment, as they only operate at room teperature. As a result, the analog video signals output from the FPA must travel significant distances which can result their degradration and or contamination before they are digitized. Such large conventional FPA controllers will have trouble keeping up with the demands required as modern astronomical instrument designs increase in complexity (e.g. multiple FPAs) and sensitivity requirements for lower noise performance.

Teledyne's SIDECAR ASIC replicates all of the functions of the conventional control system into a single integrated circuit (IC). Containing its own microprocessor, memory, analog-to-digital converters, SIDECAR can be programmed to supply the drive voltages and clock signals required to run the FPA, and pre-amplify and digitize up to 36 channels of analog video output from the FPA. Most importantly, this ASIC operates at cryogenic temperatures as low as 37K.

Teledyne's development kits include an associated interface card, JADE2, and an Integrated Development Environment software package for learing to operate the SIDECAR ASIC at the fundamental level. The JADE2 card is a digital interface between the ASIC and an external control computer. Commands to the ASIC and data from the ASIC are relayed by the JADE2 card to the control computer through a USB 2.0 port interface and a third-party USB driver designed for the Windows XP operating system.

While the development kits provide a starting point for integration into a complete modern astronomical instrument, it is not a turn-key system. Furthermore, modern large observatories require flexible and speedy data acquisition from their instruments using very specific instrument configuration interfaces. These software interfaces most commonly have been written for UNIX-based hosts such as SunOS and varieties of Linux, and Windows-based systems are not in widespread use.

For this project we obtained both a room temperature development SIDECAR ASIC kit, as well as a cryo-ready SIDECAR ASIC, and a spare 15-inch flex cable for connecting the ASIC to the outside environment. Working with our electrical engineer, Kevin Hanna, we developed an Architectural Conceptual plan for our card, TEBOW, to replace the JADE2 card. Kevin identified several key components for TEBOW, including Xilinx Field Programmable Gate Arrays, and we purchased several for prototyping. While other key components were also identified and purchased, I was unable to secure sufficient amounts of Kevin's time to have him completely design a functioning TEBOW prototype. Although the funding has expired, we continue to develop this project at UF, as an internal research and development project, as time and resources are available.

Personnel

I was co-PI with Prof. Glenn Boreman (University of Central Florida CREOL) for this UCF-UF SRI-funded project. Co-Investigators included Prof. Steve Eikenberry (UF), Dr. Reba Bandyopadhyay (UF), and Dr. Ismael Quijano (UCF). Kevin Hanna (UF) was the electrical engineer for the project.

TEBOW Papers

A link to a recent paper available on on my Proceedings page is given below.

2008, Raines, et al.