Low-Power MCA Electronics - Remote Gamma Ray Spectrometer

“This design is an example
of fine circuit engineering and use of the Captec low-power embedded core software stack, to expedite development and exceed customer expectations.”

Steve Braithwaite, Electronics Team Leader

Our customer supports the UK Government’s nuclear defence strategy and the Continuous at Sea Deterrent, using their nuclear know-how and technical expertise to provide innovative solutions that support the UK’s counter-terrorism and nuclear threat reduction activities.

The Challenges:

  • Long-life, unattended data logging utilising low-power operation that was small in size and battery powered
  • Design of electronics for capture-hold scintillator pulses with minimal distortion to optimise MCA accuracy
  • Logging software designed to minimise ‘blind spots’ when pulses are not seen
  • Temperature control software to remove the scintillator and silicon sensor temperature characteristics
  • The need to design a high-accuracy peak hold circuit for capturing detector pulses

The Solution

  • Captec exceeded customer expectations by providing battery operation that lasted over many months rather than weeks, so the device could be left unattended for longer
  • Our Embedded Core Stack was utilised to provide low-power software, reducing project time and risk whilst giving an excellent low-power design with minimal blind spots
  • The exceptional circuit design for pulse peak hold circuits allows the fast signal processing to happen in the analogue domain, while the digital electronics sleeps in a micropower state

The Outcome

  • The creation of new generation low-power MCAs for unattended use
  • Longer duration of measurement campaigns when used in battery-powered, remote locations
  • Led to a continued relationship in the research of embedded MCAs and increasing their features. There is ongoing work to add customer-requested features and improve data accuracy while preserving the low-power performance
  • Our solution was designed for the defence sector, but we are exploring civilian applications as well

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