Embedded Intelligence: Microcontrollers and FPGAs
Microcontrollers and FPGAs to bring intelligence inside the experiment:
Single-chip microcontrollers, mounted on an IDL board, are seen in the top photos are used to embed intelligence and precise action in the system. For example:
- For the shutter controller, tasks are moved to a microcontroller enabling simple hardware and reliable timing.
- The Firefly Simulator operates autonomously in the field after patterns are designed on the computer.
- The ARA Rooftop Pulser uses a microcontroller to handle communications, turn devices on and off, and control devices.
FPGAs, go a big step further, for high-speed operation, flexibility, and parallel operation, though often at the cost of programming complexity. For example:
- the RICE HSV board compares the patterns formed by several dozen inputs with several dozen different reference patterns in nanoseconds.
- In the TARA data acquisition and control system, and FPGA is used to assess the pattern of 4 input streams in under a microsecond and then control and take data with a 400MHz ADC.
- In aerospace applications, the IDL was involved with 2 independent projects.
- The MRMFT (millimeter-resolution mouse-force tracker) needs parallel operation to to acquire up to 100 datasets per second for a 64x64 array of sensors.
- The AURA DRM detector has several FPGA boards, for operation of a multi-channel, multi-gigahertz ADC, and for making rapid decisions based on discrimination logic.