In this innovation, a digital downconverter has been created that produces a large (16 or greater) number of output channels of smaller bandwidths. Additionally, this design has the flexibility to tune each channel independently to anywhere in the input bandwidth to cover a wide range of output bandwidths (from 32 MHz down to 1 kHz). Both the flexibility in channel frequency selection and the more than four orders of magnitude range in output bandwidths (decimation rates from 32 to 640,000) presented significant challenges to be solved.

The solution involved breaking the digital downconversion process into a two-stage process. The first stage is a 2× oversampled filter bank that divides the whole input bandwidth as a real input signal into seven overlapping, contiguous channels represented with complex samples. Using the symmetry of the sine and cosine functions in a similar way to that of an FFT (fast Fourier transform), this downconversion is very efficient and gives seven channels fixed in frequency. An arbitrary number of smaller bandwidth channels can be formed from second-stage downconverters placed after the first stage of downconversion.

Because of the overlapping of the first stage, there is no gap in coverage of the entire input bandwidth. The input to any of the second-stage downconverting channels has a multiplexer that chooses one of the seven wideband channels from the first stage. These second-stage downconverters take up fewer resources because they operate at lower bandwidths than doing the entire downconversion process from the input bandwidth for each independent channel. These second- stage downconverters are each independent with fine frequency control tuning, providing extreme flexibility in positioning the center frequency of a downconverted channel. Finally, these second-stage downconverters have flexible decimation factors over four orders of magnitude.

The algorithm was developed to run in an FPGA (field programmable gate array) at input data sampling rates of up to 1,280 MHz. The current implementation takes a 1,280-MHz real input, and first breaks it up into seven 160-MHz complex channels, each spaced 80 MHz apart. The eighth channel at baseband was not required for this implementation, and led to more optimization. Afterwards, 16 second stage narrow band channels with independently tunable center frequencies and bandwidth settings are implemented. A future implementation in a larger Xilinx FPGA will hold up to 32 independent secondstage channels.

This work was done by Charles E. Goodhart, Melissa A. Soriano, Robert Navarro, Joseph T. Trinh, and Elliott H. Sigman of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The software used in this innovation is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Dan Broderick at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NPO-47431


This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
An Efficient, Highly Flexible Multi-Channel Digital Downconverter Architecture

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This article first appeared in the July, 2013 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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