Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


University of Oxford signs RFEL for initial signal processing study contract for ...


... the Square Kilometre Array radio astronomy project

The University of Oxford, a member of the Low Frequency Aperture Array (LFAA) consortium, working together with the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Organisation to build the world's largest radio telescope, has signed an initial study contract with RFEL. The contract covers the design of an FPGA-based signal processing architecture for the channelisation and beam forming functions in the antenna processing hardware.

Artist's composition of the 4 SKA instruments spread on the African (right of the image) and Australian (left of the image) continent.
Photo credit: SKA Organisation

Image downloadable from

RFEL, who specialises in high performance, electronic video and signal processing solutions, was selected because of the company's expertise in novel signal processing architectures and optimal VHDL coding that allows complex designs to "fit" into small FPGAs without compromising overall system performance. The SKA, which will be built over the next decade, will comprise of thousands of dish telescopes and hundreds of thousands of dipole antennas. Each of the dipole antennas will have two of these channelisers, to process the signals. It is therefore vital to keep the power requirements and costs of each processing card to a minimum.

The study involves the creation of a highly-configurable, fixed-point Matlab model, where channelisation parameters and beam forming strategies can be entered. Stimulus can then be presented to the model to allow the fidelity of performance to be monitored against immediate feedback of FPGA resource usage, and power dissipation for any given design configuration. RFEL is drawing on its years of work in this area of signal processing and its extensive Matlab and VHDL "module" library, to enable the SKA to achieve the maximum system performance matched to the FPGA cost and power dissipation limitations of such a large scientific instrument.

Alex Kuhrt, RFEL's CEO, announced, "We are delighted to have been awarded this contract. This is a highly prestigious, international project with around 100 organisations from 20 countries participating in the design and development. We will be able to draw on our previous work on solutions for radio telescopes, such as for the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy."

The antennae will be located in Australia and Africa to form a radio telescope that spans two continents and a total collecting area of one square kilometre. Rather than just clustered in the central core regions, the telescopes will be arranged in multiple spiral arm configurations, with the antennae extending to vast distances from the central cores, creating what is known as a long baseline interferometer array. It will have an unprecedented scope in observations, exceeding the image resolution quality of the Hubble Space Telescope by a factor of 50 times, whilst also having the ability to image huge areas of sky ten times faster than any existing facilities.

The SKA will address fundamental unanswered questions about the Universe including how the first stars and galaxies formed after the big bang, how dark energy is accelerating the expansion of the Universe, the role of magnetism in the cosmos, the nature of gravity, and the search for life beyond Earth.

Artist's composition of the 4 SKA instruments spread on the African (right of the image) and Australian (left of the image) continent. 

Photo credit: SKA Organisation

Image downloadable from

In such an array, physical distance separates the telescopes, and the distance between them is calculated precisely using the time difference between the arrival of radio signals at each receiver. Computers can then calculate how to combine these signals to synthesise something the equivalent size of a single dish measuring the width of the distance between the two scopes. In doing so, these interferometry techniques enable astronomers to emulate a telescope with a size equal to the maximum separation between the telescopes in the array, or if needed, just the distance between a subset of telescopes, or indeed, multiple subsets of the main array. This way, rather than build one gigantic dish, the capabilities of one huge dish are in some ways surpassed by the flexibility that this interferometry configuration brings.


The SKA project is an international effort to build the world's largest radio telescope, with a square kilometre (one million square metres) of collecting area. The scale of the SKA represents a huge leap forward in both engineering and research & development towards building and delivering a radio telescope, and will deliver a correspondingly transformational increase in science capability when operational. The SKA Organisation, with its headquarters at Jodrell Bank Observatory near Manchester, UK, was established in December 2011 as a not-for-profit company in order to formalise relationships between the international partners and to centralise the leadership of the project. Eleven countries are currently members of the SKA Organisation, and some further countries expressed their interest in joining the project in the near-term future.

Contact information: William Garnier, Communications and Outreach Manager, SKA Organisation.

Email: Phone: +44 (0) 161 306 9613

RFEL Ltd is a UK-based innovative electronic systems designer, providing real-time high specification signal, image and video processing products, FPGA solutions and design services to defence, security, communications and instrumentation markets.

Further Information and illustrations
T +44 (0) 1983 216600
Press Information
Nigel Robson, Vortex PR
T +44 (0) 1481 233080

All trademarks are the property of their respective owners

Nigel Robson | Vortex PR
Further information:

Further reports about: Max Planck Institute RFEL SKA radio signal radio telescope signal processing

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Graphene microphone outperforms traditional nickel and offers ultrasonic reach
27.11.2015 | Institute of Physics

nachricht Tracking down the 'missing' carbon from the Martian atmosphere
25.11.2015 | California Institute of Technology

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s

Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.

Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...

Im Focus: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

Im Focus: Laser process simulation available as app for first time

In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.

Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...

Im Focus: Quantum Simulation: A Better Understanding of Magnetism

Heidelberg physicists use ultracold atoms to imitate the behaviour of electrons in a solid

Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Gluten oder nicht Gluten? Überempfindlichkeit auf Weizen kann unterschiedliche Ursachen haben

17.11.2015 | Event News

Art Collection Deutsche Börse zeigt Ausstellung „Traces of Disorder“

21.10.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Siemens to supply 126 megawatts to onshore wind power plants in Scotland

27.11.2015 | Press release

Two decades of training students and experts in tracking infectious disease

27.11.2015 | Life Sciences

Coming to a monitor near you: A defect-free, molecule-thick film

27.11.2015 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>