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Measurement setup for the characterization of data converters in a neutron radiation environment

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Title: Measurement setup for the characterization of data converters in a neutron radiation environment
Author: Boyd, Nicholas
Department: School of Engineering
Program: Engineering
Advisor: Gregori, StefanoGellert, Ralf
Abstract: In this thesis I will present an approach and apparatus for detecting and precisely characterizing any dose-dependent changes in the functional behaviour of a data converter in a neutron radiation environment. Depending on the data converter such changes could include shifts in the gain, offset, noise, or linearity of the device output. The approach leverages the neutron flux produced by an Americium-Beryllium radioisotope neutron source, and is meant to emulate the neutron environment near a Cm-244 source, as found in the sensor head of the APXS instrument. This method uses a relatively low dose rate (configurable by proximity to the source) which allows for long-term monitoring and characterization of parametric changes in device behaviour. It has the additional benefit of not requiring a reactor or accelerator, and can therefore run unattended when necessary. The prototype system, which is designed to allow the data converter to be operating during irradiation, uses LVDS signalling to drive and extract data from a minimal test board which is placed in proximity to the neutron source, and a Virtex-4 FPGA board to provide clock and power, and to perform signal processing. By separating the majority of the test equipment from the neutron environment, any radiation effects will be isolated to the DUT and a minimal set of supporting devices. The prototype design is presented here, along with initial characterization results and first test results on a commercial, off-the-shelf data converter.
Date: 2012-06
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