'Silent' electronics designed to power SKA-Low telescope

Wednesday, 13 September, 2023

'Silent' electronics designed to power SKA-Low telescope

A team of researchers, engineers and technicians has developed a ‘SMART box’ to power the Square Kilometre Array Low frequency (SKA-Low) telescope, currently under construction at Inyarrimanha Ilgari Bundara, the CSIRO Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, in Western Australia. The SMART boxes provide electrical power to the SKA-Low telescope’s 131,072 antennas and collect signals received from the sky to go off-site for processing.

The Engineering & Operations team at the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) designed and built the first set of 24 SMART boxes. Tom Booler, Program Lead for Engineering and Operations at ICRAR, said they are the only electrical devices that must be placed among the antennas, creating a challenge for the sensitive equipment.

“The SKA-Low telescope will receive exquisitely faint signals that have travelled across the Universe for billions of years. To detect them, the SKA-Low telescope is being built in a pristine radio quiet zone far from the interference created by modern technology. It’s so radio quiet at the observatory site that the biggest potential source of interference is the electronics like ours, due to the proximity to the antennas. That meant our project had to meet the strictest radio emission requirements across the entire Australian SKA site,” Booler said.

The researchers sourced ‘radio quiet’ parts that emit minimal interference, replacing the more ‘noisy’ ones. The parts were then wrapped in a specially designed case to prevent any stray radio waves from escaping. The boxes were tested at an electromagnetic test facility in South Africa. The ‘radio quiet’ results that the SMART boxes achieved were reportedly to the highest standards in radio astronomy.

A contract to build up to 12,000 SMART boxes for the entire fit-out of the SKA-Low telescope was awarded to AVI, a company based in Perth. Booler said he was pleased to see that the SMART boxes would be built in Western Australia, an indication of the nation’s capability in the space industry that could be leveraged into the future.

“Extreme temperatures, ingress protection and the low noise requirements, coupled with the remoteness of this location, offer more opportunities to learn and evolve. I think we are all eager to be a part of what findings may eventually be revealed by the radio telescope,” Tony Routledge, AVI Managing Director, said.

Image caption: Each box houses 12 “Front End Modules” that convert electrical signals from the antenna to fibre-optic signals for transmission. Image credit: ICRAR

Related News

Cultivating triple-decker hybrid crystals for lasers

Researchers have manipulated the arrangement of multiple inorganic and organic layers within...

Engineers embrace AI for component selection

A survey has revealed that 84% of respondents trust AI to play a role in component selection for...

Unravelling graphene's proton permeability

Researchers have demonstrated that perfect graphene crystals are permeable to protons, as the...

  • All content Copyright © 2023 Westwick-Farrow Pty Ltd