LHC to Receive Fastest Integrated Circuits Ever Made

They will boost its performances considerably

A group of experts from the Southern Methodist University (SMU), in Dallas, announces the development of a new, super-fast circuit designed specifically to augment the capabilities of one of the main particle detectors of the Large Hadron Collider. The LHC is the largest physics experiment ever designed, and its goal is to discover some of the most fundamental knowledge about the Universe and the elementary particles and forces that govern our world.

With the development of the new integrated circuits, called “link-on-chip” or LOC serializer circuits, the team hopes to be able to boost the performances of the LHC's ATLAS particle detectors, one of the three main instruments in the 27-kilometer-long tunnel of the accelerator. The innovation was designed specifically to be used by the Liquid Argon Calorimeter, an ATLAS sub-detector that could function a lot better, and overall more efficiently, once the new application-specific integrated circuits (ASIC) are added. The SMU team is directly involved in the ATLAS collaboration.

There was a large number of factors researchers at the university needed to consider when creating the LOC. In addition, the large amount of radiation that is produced as the LHC collides beams of protons head-on at the highest energy levels ever achieved, there are also other issues to consider. The calorimeter needs to be able to handle a high data bandwidth, low power dissipation, and must feature an extremely high degree of reliability as well. There is very little room for error in an endeavor such as the LHC, and all of its components need to respect a vast array of norms and rules.

“SMU's LOC serializer is the fastest in our field for the moment. CERN is developing another fast ASIC serializer that does not yet match our speed. SMU's next goal is to increase both the data speed and the number of data lanes to produce an even faster LOC serializer. In the next few years, we hope to increase the total speed by a factor of 62 more than what is installed in ATLAS,” explains SMU associate professor of physics Jingbo Ye, quoted by e! Science News. He was in charge of the science group that developed the LOC serializer.

“The original ATLAS design used a commercial serializer that was purchased from Agilent Technologies. But for the Super LHC there is no commercial device that would meet the requirements, so – being typical physicists – we set out to design it ourselves,” he adds. CERN, the organization managing the LHC, plans to upgrade the particle accelerator considerably by 2017, when the Super LHC, the advanced version of the current instrument, is due to be opened.

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