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An Integrated Circuit for Radio Astronomy Correlators Supporting Large Arrays of AntennasRadio telescopes that employ arrays of many antennas are in operation, and ever larger ones are being designed and proposed. Signals from the antennas are combined by cross-correlation. While the cost of most components of the telescope is proportional to the number of antennas N, the cost and power consumption of cross-correlationare proportional to N2 and dominate at sufficiently large N. Here we report the design of an integrated circuit (IC) that performs digital cross-correlations for arbitrarily many antennas in a power-efficient way. It uses an intrinsically low-power architecture in which the movement of data between devices is minimized. In a large system, each IC performs correlations for all pairs of antennas but for a portion of the telescope's bandwidth (the so-called "FX" structure). In our design, the correlations are performed in an array of 4096 complex multiply-accumulate (CMAC) units. This is sufficient to perform all correlations in parallel for 64 signals (N=32 antennas with 2 opposite-polarization signals per antenna). When N is larger, the input data are buffered in an on-chipmemory and the CMACs are re-used as many times as needed to compute all correlations. The design has been synthesized and simulated so as to obtain accurate estimates of the IC's size and power consumption. It isintended for fabrication in a 32 nm silicon-on-insulator process, where it will require less than 12mm2 of silicon area and achieve an energy efficiency of 1.76 to 3.3 pJ per CMAC operation, depending on the number of antennas. Operation has been analyzed in detail up to N = 4096. The system-level energy efficiency, including board-levelI/O, power supplies, and controls, is expected to be 5 to 7 pJ per CMAC operation. Existing correlators for the JVLA (N = 32) and ALMA (N = 64) telescopes achieve about 5000 pJ and 1000 pJ respectively usingapplication-specific ICs in older technologies. To our knowledge, the largest-N existing correlator is LEDA atN = 256; it uses GPUs built in 28 nm technology and achieves about 1000 pJ. Correlators being designed for the SKA telescopes (N = 128 and N = 512) using FPGAs in 16nm technology are predicted to achieve about 100 pJ.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
D'Addario, Larry R.
(Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Wang, Douglas
(Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
April 1, 2016
Publication Date
March 18, 2016
Publication Information
Publication: Journal of Astronomical Instrumentation
Volume: 5
Issue: 2
Subject Category
Distribution Limits
radio astronomy
integrated circuit

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