This SBIR Phase II proposal requests support for Alphacore, Inc. to design and characterize a 20GS/s (giga-samples per-second), 6-bit, low-power, and low-cost analog-to-digital converter (ADC) ASIC with backend polyphase filter banks (PFB) based digital processing (DSP) for use in a wide range of NASA’s microwave sensor based remote sensing applications.
Alphacore’s new single-core ADC designed in the GlobalFoundries 22FDX 22nm FDSOI process allows full Nyquist rate conversion of input signals up to 20 GHz. The maximum sampling rate is 24 GS/s, resolution is 6 bits (effective number of bits, ENOB = 4.5 bits) and the power consumption is below 250mW (115mW core ADC + 134mW output interface) without counting the on-chip DSP. This is possible because of Alphacore’s innovative “digital folding” Flash ADC architecture. The low power supply value of 0.8V available in the 22FDX process also helps in keeping the power consumption at a lower level than what is possible in most comparable CMOS processes. The ADC will have an analog input bandwidth of 20GHz making it possible to sample and convert signals on the full second Nyquist band, which provides significant benefits to many applications. Alphacore will also make the ADC radiation-tolerant, which enables its use in space-borne applications.
Alphacore's ADC provides unprecedented performance in terms of bandwidth and resolution at low power levels, in addition to radiation hardness, which opens possibilities for new and improved instruments and missions. Having such an ADC and other critical designs already available gives Alphacore a crucial advantage in developing a fieldable system by the end of the SBIR development cycle.
This rad-hard ADC is ideal for CubeSats and small/nano satellites. It supports NASA’s remote radiometer microwave sensors for a wide range of Earth observing missions. Examples are potential SMAP follow-on missions and future upgrades to instruments like the AMR-C. Moon to Mars exploration applications are also great matches. Alphacore will bring significant value to NASA’s sensor and advanced RF communications applications. Alphacore’s RH ADC will both enable improved data resolution and also survive in harsh environments.
Radio astronomy telescope arrays such as the Square Kilometer Array, LEO and GEO commercial telecommunication satellites, Energy Frontier physics research (including ATLAS and CMS at Large Hadron Collider at CERN), fiber optic communications networking applications (coherent receivers), defense phased array applications and IC test equipment applications, 5G telecoms and Starlink.