Space probes will be more useful with new amplifiers

Apr 26, 2012

Researchers at Chalmers have developed a new generation of amplifiers, which the European Space Agency (ESA) will be using throughout the world to receive signals from its space probes and satellites. ESA will be able to use the new amplifiers to measure data that is currently buried by noise.

The research group has developed and built 30 ultrasensitive, cryogenically cooled amplifiers for receiving satellite signals. They will be used, for example, in the receiver of the Cebreros tracking station, which will be upgraded within a few weeks. Cebreros provides daily information on the space projects Venus Express, and .

ESA's satellites investigate and monitor atmospheric changes on the Earth, for example. Their space probes collect data on the solar system, the planets as well as comets. The signals from satellites and space probes are received by antennas installed in various places around the surface of the Earth so that signals can be received regardless of the Earth's rotation. The is one of the most important building blocks of these antennas and determines the quality of the entire receiver chain.

The new amplifiers from Chalmers have several advantages over their predecessors. Their primary benefit is that they add less noise to the , which enables major possibilities for .

"Communication is more reliable," says Piotr Starski, one of the Chalmers' researchers who have developed the amplifiers. "Satellite availability will also be improved since it will be possible to follow them farther down toward the horizon where atmospheric noise contribution increases."

The additional noise in the amplifiers is referred to as the noise temperature, NT, and is measured in (K). The new amplifiers have a noise temperature of just 4 K.

"This is exceptionally good for this type of circuit, nearly state-of-the-art," says Piotr Starski. "We have also had a more modern approach to the design which has enabled us to make much smaller and less expensive amplifiers than their predecessors."

The amplifiers are built with so called Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuits (MMIC), which means that they are complete components that are much easier to assemble. Previously it was not possible to build cooled MMIC amplifiers that performed adequately. But researchers at Chalmers have achieved performance that is as good as that of hybrid amplifiers, which are much more expensive and complicated to produce.

Production of the amplifiers has been done in collaboration with Low Noise Factory, a start-up company from Chalmers. The reason that ESA ordered the amplifiers from Chalmers is that the Microwave Electronic Laboratory at Chalmers is one of a very few places in the world that is capable of developing cryogenically cooled amplifiers with extremely low noise and adequate performance, especially as MMIC.

Explore further: X-ray detector on plastic delivers medical imaging performance

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Novel optical amplifier without the noise

Jul 08, 2011

Researchers in Sweden have succeeded in delivering an optical amplifier capable of amplifying light with extremely low noise. The study is published in the journal Nature Photonics.

Giant optical gain in a rare-earth-ion-doped microstructure

Jan 12, 2012

Prof. Markus Pollnau and co-workers at the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Twente (The Netherlands) have developed a rare-earth-ion-doped optical amplifier with performance comparable to semiconductor ...

DOCOMO develops compact multi-band power amplifier

May 20, 2011

NTT DOCOMO today announced that it has developed a prototype power amplifier for six frequency bands between 1.5 GHz and 2.5 GHz in a form factor smaller than multiple single-band power amplifiers conventionally ...

New Amplifier Pushes the Boundary of Quantum Physics

May 05, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- If powerful new quantum computers are to reach their enormous potential, they will need amplifiers capable of transmitting signals so weak they consist of a single photon. In the May 6 edition ...

Recommended for you

Review: 'Hearthstone' card game is the real deal

1 hour ago

Video game publishers don't take many risks with their most popular franchises. You know exactly what you are going to get from a new "Call of Duty" or "Madden NFL" game—it will probably be pretty good, ...

Switch on sunlight for a brighter future

2 hours ago

Imagine sitting in a windowless room yet having the feeling of the sun shining on your face. This unique experience is now possible thanks to the COELUX EU-funded project which recreates the physical and ...

Tackling urban problems with Big Data

2 hours ago

Paul Waddell, a city planning professor at the University of California, Berkeley, with a penchant for conducting research with what he calls his "big urban data," is putting his work to a real-world test ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

New breast cancer imaging method promising

The new PAMmography method for imaging breast cancer developed by the University of Twente's MIRA research institute and the Medisch Spectrum Twente hospital appears to be a promising new method that could ...

Research proves nanobubbles are superstable

The intense research interest in surface nanobubbles arises from their potential applications in microfluidics and the scientific challenge for controlling their fundamental physical properties. One of the ...

Using antineutrinos to monitor nuclear reactors

When monitoring nuclear reactors, the International Atomic Energy Agency has to rely on input given by the operators. In the future, antineutrino detectors may provide an additional option for monitoring. ...