Extreme Amp for the Space Environment
Space missions require “warm” boxes to protect electronic circuitry from extreme temperatures and exposure to radiation. Electrical engineering researchers have designed and successfully tested an electronic micro-amplifier that can operate in space without protection from a warm box. Capable of functioning with consistency and stability at extreme temperatures, the new amplifier saves power and space required for electronics circuitry and will also contribute to the development and commercial production of electronics and computer systems that do not require protection in extreme conditions and environments. “This and several other designs focus on wide-temperature operational characteristics of sensor-based, signal-processing circuits,” said Alan Mantooth, professor of electrical engineering and holder of the Twenty-First Century Endowed Chair in Mixed-Signal IC Design and CAD. “But our device is the first fully differential amplifier circuit designed specifically for extreme temperatures, including temperatures in the cryogenic region. Some of our designs have been tested as fully operational down to 2 Kelvin, or -271 degrees Celsius.” In electronics and computer systems, amplifiers increase the amplitude of a signal, usually voltage or current. Differential amplifiers multiply differences in voltage or current between two inputs by a constant factor. This factor — called differential gain — is the measure of the circuit’s ability to increase the power or amplitude of a signal. Fully differential amplifiers are used in various electronic systems, including analog-to-digital conversion applications. They are considered building blocks in the development of integrated electronic circuits and chips.