Monday 9th July, 2012
Cambridge Consultants helps take world’s largest telescope out of the lab
Science and volume manufacturing expertise combined to design antenna for Square Kilometre Array
The statistics are vast – a central computer with the processing power of 100 million PCs, enough optical fibre to wrap twice around the earth, and raw data to fill 15 million 64 GB iPods every day. So when Cambridge Consultants, a leading technology design and development firm, was tasked with turning an antenna design for the world’s largest radio telescope into a viable product for volume manufacturing, it was no ordinary challenge.
The antennas for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) have to be easy to assemble in the field and be able to withstand up to 50 years of use, potentially in harsh desert conditions. And millions of them need to be manufactured with no degradation of performance and at the lowest possible cost. When completed, they are expected to produce more than 100 times today’s global internet traffic.
A team at the
“The challenge of volume manufacture is at the forefront of our work with the SKA programme,” said Gary Kemp, Programme Director at Cambridge Consultants. “The two-metre-tall antennas will have to be manufactured in very high volumes – more than 2.5 million will be required, in addition to the 40 million antennas of the mid-frequency array. So ‘commercialising’ the design through the design for manufacture process is critical to the feasibility of the SKA. To see a mature design for part of the physical hardware that will make up the core of the world’s biggest telescope is an important step towards the construction of the final instrument.”
Cambridge Consultants has worked with the SKA project for the last five years, helping to tackle the ‘big science’ problems involved in designing and building the revolutionary telescope which will enable scientists to probe deep space and address fundamental unanswered questions about the universe. Millions of receivers will be linked together across an area the size of a continent – split between
The SKA will consist of three separate arrays:
- an array of 3,000 dishes, each 15m diameter and looking most like our current impression of a radio telescope, to cover the higher radio frequencies
- a mid-frequency aperture array consisting of 250 separate stations, each containing 160,000 densely-packed receiver elements
- a low-frequency aperture array consisting of a dense core plus a series of out-stations, totalling 2.5 million receiver elements. These will detect neutral hydrogen to explore the early universe, galaxy evolution and the nature of dark energy.
The aperture arrays provide a large field of view and are capable of observing many parts of the sky simultaneously. This ‘beam-forming’ capability will enable the SKA to achieve survey speeds 10,000 times faster than any existing instrument and the huge collecting area will make it 50 times more sensitive than today’s most sensitive instrument – marking the SKA out as a true ‘discovery’ instrument.
Dr Andrew Faulkner at the
Cambridge Consultants develops breakthrough products, creates and licenses intellectual property, and provides business consultancy in technology critical issues for clients worldwide. For more than 50 years, the company has been helping its clients turn business opportunities into commercial successes, whether they are launching first-to-market products, entering new markets or expanding existing markets through the introduction of new technologies. With a team of more than 380 staff, including engineers, scientists, mathematicians and designers, in offices in Cambridge (UK), Boston (USA) and Singapore, Cambridge Consultants offers solutions across a diverse range of industries including medical technology, industrial and consumer products, transport, energy, cleantech and wireless communications.
Cambridge Consultants is part of Altran, a global leader in innovation and high-tech engineering consulting which supports companies in the creation and development of their new products and services. With a staff of 20,000 employees in more than 20 countries, the Group generated revenues of €1,456m in 2012. For more information visit: www.altran.com
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