CSIRO and Sapphicon Semiconductor Australia have signed an agreement to jointly develop a complete radio receiver on a chip measuring 5 mm x 5 mm that could eventually be used in mobile phones and other communications technologies.
The development of a low-cost, ultra-high-bandwidth system-on-chip (SoC)device could also replace traditional receivers currently used in radio astronomy applications, many of which are about the size of a bar fridge.
Silicon-on-Sapphire wafer with high-performance mixed-signal chips – an example of the kind of chips to be developed with CSIRO.
The chip’s first test will be in CSIRO’s Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) – an array of 36 radio dishes that acts as a single telescope now under construction in Western Australia.
It will be trialled in a 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.
Sapphicon Semiconductor’s CEO, Andrew Brawley, said the chip will be developed using the company’s Silicon-on-Sapphire CMOS process.
The chip is very high bandwidth, able to sample about 600 MHz around a central frequency of 1400 MHz.
International researchers developing the SKA radio telescope are interested in the R&D proposed by CSIRO and Sapphicon. No other group is developing a fully integrated single-chip receiver.
The development project will take about two years to complete and will involve a number of stages of sub-component development and testing.
CSIRO will contribute the intellectual property it has generated over the last five years from research funded by the Commonwealth Government under the second round of the Major National Research Facilities program in 2001.
Following its collaboration with Sapphicon and CSIRO on earlier proof-of-concept projects, the Centre for Technology Infusion at La Trobe University in Melbourne will also work with Sapphicon in the development of the novel chip.
CSIRO’s Business Development Manager for ASKAP, Carole Jackson, said the development of these devices will require significant Australian electronics design expertise.
“It will encourage training and the diffusion of expertise throughout this industry.”