A polarimetric radiometer that operates at a frequency of 40 GHz has been designed and built as a prototype of multiple identical units that could be arranged in a planar array for scientific measurements. Such an array is planned for use in studying the cosmic microwave background (CMB).

All of the subsystems and components of this polarimetric radiometer are integrated into a single multi-chip module (MCM) of substantially planar geometry. In comparison with traditional designs of polarimetric radiometers, the MCM design is expected to greatly reduce the cost per unit in an array of many such units.

The MCM performs all the microwave functions (other than initial reception and orthomode transduction) of a polarimetric microwave radiometer.
The design of the unit is dictated partly by a requirement, in the planned CMB application, to measure the Stokes parameters I, Q, and U of the CMB radiation with high sensitivity. (A complete definition of the Stokes parameters would exceed the scope of this article. In necessarily oversimplified terms, I is a measure of total intensity of radiation, while Q and U are measures of the relationships between the horizontally and vertically polarized components of radiation.) Because the sensitivity of a single polarimeter cannot be increased significantly, the only way to satisfy the high-sensitivity requirement is to make a large array of polarimeters that operate in parallel.

The MCM includes contact pins that can be plugged into receptacles on a standard printed-circuit board (PCB). All of the required microwave functionality is implemented within the MCM; any required supporting non-microwave (“back-end”) electronic functionality, including the provision of DC bias and control signals, can be implemented by standard PCB techniques.

On the way from a microwave antenna to the MCM, the incoming microwave signal passes through an orthomode transducer (OMT), which splits the radiation into an h + i? beam and an h – i? beam (where, using complex-number notation, h denotes the horizontal component, ? denotes the vertical component, and ±i denotes a ±90° phase shift). Each of these beams enters the MCM through one of two WR-22 waveguide input terminals in the lid of the MCM. The h + i? and h – i? signals are amplified, then fed to a phasediscriminator hybrid designed specifically to fit the predominantly planar character of the MCM geometry and to enable determination of Q and U. The phase-discriminator hybrid generates four outputs, which are detected and used to calculate I, Q, and U.

This work was done by Pekka Kangaslahti, Douglas Dawson, and Todd Gaier of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NPO-41335.