Low-Power FPGAs Aboard NASA’s Mission to Mars to Study Climate History

RTAX-S field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) Actel Mountain View, CA 650-318-4200 www.actel.com Actel’s RTAX-S field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) are aboard NASA’s Phoenix mission to Mars, which launched this summer from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The mission will study the history of water and habitability potential in the Martian Arctic. Included in the spacecraft is a Meterological Station (MET) provided by the Canadian Space Agency, which will acquire, process, and transmit temperature and pressure data to scientists back on Earth. MDA, a provider of robotic space systems, led construction of the MET instrument and incorporated Actel’s one-million-gate RTAX1000SCQ352 device into the instrument subsystem.

Posted in: Application Briefs



Objet Geometries, Billerica, MA, has introduced the Connex500™ multimaterial 3D printer based on the company’s PolyJet Matrix™ technology, which provides simultaneous jetting of multiple model materials. The system enables the printing of parts and assemblies made of multiple materials in a single build, and fabricates Digital Materials™ on the fly, enabling the creation of composite materials that have preset combinations of mechanical properties. The printer prints parts with specific Shore A values, a scale used to indicate material hardness in soft, flexible materials. It produces prototypes of products that use over-molding in the manufacturing process, and fabricates translucent models that aid in medical applications by showing nerves, tumors, and other areas of interest. Three printing modes are available: DM mode operates at 12 mm per hour in 30-micron layers; HQ mode builds parts at 12 mm per hour in 16-micron layers; and the HS mode runs at 20 mm per hour in 30-micron layers. Build volume is 500 × 400 × 200 mm.

Posted in: Products


Dr. John Mather, Chief Scientist for the Science Mission Directorate

NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC Using NASA’s Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite to measure microwaves and infrared light that originated with the formation of the universe, Dr. John C. Mather helped verify the validity of the Big Bang theory. Recently named to head up the Office of the Chief Scientist for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC, Dr. Mather was a co-recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Posted in: Who's Who


Combining Multimode Emissions from Broad Area Laser Diodes into Single-Mode Spots without Feedback

Broad-area laser diodes are the most efficient coherent light sources and are widely used today. The extraordinary efficiency, modulation easiness, availability to virtually any wavelength and compactness are the principle drives stimulating the development of light sources based on laser diodes. However, due to fundamental limitations of laser diode gain medium, the emission from laser diodes has a major drawback — the emission is not spatially coherent. In other words laser diode light is often seen as a light bulb emission that cannot be focused in a diffraction limited spot of λ/2 or easily transmitted as a narrow beam. Despite the fact that kilowatts of multimode power can be easily extracted from a laser diode array, the resulting single-lobe single-element power from a laser diode is always limited by a value of several watts. Many applications are waiting for a spatially coherent laser diode source offering power from 1 to 100W. The potential substitution of YAG and fiber lasers by a compact, direct single- mode laser diode source would bring significant advancements in a number of applications such as LIDAR/LADAR (Light Intensity Detection and Ranging/Light Amplification Detection and Ranging) systems; high-bit-rate, long-haul free space communication systems; industrial processing applications; and many more.

Posted in: Articles, Features, ptb catchall, Photonics


Design of a Field-Mapped Beam Homogenizer

Light beam homogenizer designs used for decades are largely based upon lenticular lens arrays that date back to the 1940s and 1950s. A more recent design is from the late 1980s that comprises a pair of crossed-cylindrical lenticular lens structures coupled with a condensing lens. The 1980s design has 10 optical surfaces which represents a significant source of optical loss, long beam path (typically ~ 1.5 meters) and high cost from having so many optical elements. Further, this design requires careful and precise alignment of the light beam in relation to the optics comprising the homogenizer, in particular angular rotation of the lenslets and their positioning in the X-Y plane of the optical axis. These designs are unable to produce a homogenized ring illumination, which is useful for ablating polymer insulation from metal bonding pads in microelectronic fabrication of multichip modules and memory chips.

Posted in: Application Briefs, Applications, ptb catchall, Photonics


Photonics West Exhibitor Preview

View these and other new products on display by exhibitors at Photonics West, January 22-24, in San Jose, CA. Visit Photonics Tech Briefs at Booth 1437.Visit http://spie.org/x2584.xml for more information.

Posted in: Products, Products



The New SOI-Based Memory Technology In the electronics industry today there are two commonly used high-speed memory types: static RAM (SRAM) and dynamic RAM (DRAM). Traditionally, SRAM embedded memory has been the designer’s choice for fast memory, but since a typical SRAM bitcell is comprised of six transistors, that benefit comes at the expense of cost and silicon area. Embedded DRAM (eDRAM), whose smaller bitcell is comprised of a single transistor and single capacitor, offers a much lower cost option, but has higher latency and is typically used further from the processor. While DRAM is fundamental to electronic systems, it does have its limit — namely, its inability to scale to accommodate the migration to smaller, and therefore more advanced, process geometries. This limitation is further complicated by the fact that new application areas for memory are fast appearing, fueled by the popularity of digital home appliances and next-generation mobile devices, the digital convergence of electronic goods and telecommunications, and ever evolving media content.

Posted in: Articles, Articles


The U.S. Government does not endorse any commercial product, process, or activity identified on this web site.