Microelectronics at IFT – from CERN to Space
The Microelectronics Group is involved in the development of space instrumentation (ESA), CERN and medical applications. The common thread among these different projects is the need for detector readout electronics in demanding environments.
It is hard to imagine a society today without microelectronics. Integrated circuits can be found in everything from mobile phones, to refrigerators, cars and planes. In the Microelectronics Group at IFT, we are working on the development of new electronic circuitry and systems that are for use in new physics experiments.
Depending on the assignment, a student may develop software, do digital design, create their own printed circuit boards, or do analog design. FPGAs (field-programmable gate array) with/without embedded processors are widely used in many projects. The knowledge that a student acquires during a Master's project in microelectronics is highly relevant to both academia and industry.
A Master's project in microelectronics is based on an agreement between the supervisor and the student. In this way, both the student’s and the group’s interests are taken into consideration.
There is a wide range of possible Master's projects in microelectronics. For example:
- Development of detector and readout electronics for the proton CT project: Proton CT should be used to make dose planning much more accurate in proton treatment of cancer.
- Development of electronics for the ALICE experiment at CERN: Many of the circuit boards made for the CERN projects have to function in a radioactive environment. This demands special requirements in relation to radiation testing and design choices. In the photo carousel above is an image of the Inner Tracking System built for the ALICE experiment at CERN. This detector consists of active detector circuits (Application Specific Integrated Circuits) covering a total of more than 10 m2!
- Development of electronics for rockets and satellites: Many of these are in connection to ESA (European Space Agency) projects. The image carousel shows the ASIM experiment where the microelectronics group has designed and built the MXGS instrument in partnership with the Birkeland Center for Space Research.
- Measurement and characterization of various sensors and detectors used in physics experiments, either at CERN or in space.
As an interesting sidebar, “nanoelectronics” is another name for microelectronics that is gradually becoming commonplace. The reason for this name change is that the transistors on which integrated circuits are built are being sized down to less than 10 nm in length.