Honey, I shrunk the receiver

An artist's impression of the ASKAP radio telescope array

An artist's impression of the ASKAP radio telescope array in Western Australia. ASKAP is currently under construction, and is due to commence operations in early 2013.

A complete radio receiver on a chip measuring just 5mm x 5mm could eventually be used in mobile phones and other communications technologies.

CSIRO and Australian company Sapphicon Semiconductor Pty Ltd have signed an agreement to jointly develop the chip.

The development of a low-cost, ultra-high-bandwidth ‘system-on-chip’ device could also replace traditional receivers currently used in radio astronomy applications, many of which are about the size of a small fridge.

The chip’s first test will be in CSIRO’s Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP)—an array of 36 radio dishes that acts as a single telescope now under construction in Western Australia.

Image of silicon-on-sapphire chips

New silicon-on-sapphire chips are being developed by CSIRO and Sapphicon Semiconductor.

It will be tested in an innovative radio camera (or “phased array feed”) developed by CSIRO, which sits at the focal centre of each ASKAP dish to receive incoming cosmic radio waves.

“This chip will minimise the size and weight of the phased array feed, reduce cost and power, and facilitate maintenance,” said CSIRO Project Director for ASKAP, Dr David DeBoer.

“In our radio camera, it could revolutionise radio astronomy.”

International researchers developing the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope are interested in the R&D proposed by CSIRO and Sapphicon. No other group is developing a fully integrated single-chip receiver.

“This sort of technology, which looks to deliver mass-produced components on low-loss substrates consuming little power, is ideal for the SKA, which potentially needs millions of highly sensitive electronic sensors,” said Professor Richard Schilizzi, Director of the SKA Program Development Office in the UK, which co-ordinates international planning for the SKA.

“CSIRO is to be congratulated on this important step.”

Adapted from information issued by CSIRO / Sapphicon Semiconductor Pty Ltd.

Filed Under: Australian ScienceNews Archive

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