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FPGA based reconfigurable scientific Instrumentation

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Speaker(s) :Thibault Rétornaz, Jean Michel Friedt
Nature :Meeting
Level :Expert
Date :Wednesday 2 July 2008
Schedule :11h45
Duration :45 minutes
Language :Français
Place :BIO/TD1 - IUT
Video :

Based on the board provided by the ARMadeus association (, in which a powerful processing unit (ARM9 core) and FPGA are combined, sharing communication busses, we demonstrate the development of scientific instruments dedicated to the measurement of radiofrequency oscillators and picture grabbing from a CMOS camera.

A general purpose CPU provides a flexible and powerful tool but is unsuitable to low latency applications (associated for example to interrupt service routine processing). On the other hand, a reconfigurable logic gate matrix (FPGA) is an ideal complement to CPUs since it is software reconfigurable towards a dedicated task, requiring the best of its performances with a low latency defined by signal propagation delay and the complexity of the processing task.

We here wish to demonstrate the CPU/FPGA combination in the realization of scientific instrumentation towards the measurement of counters for radiofrequency oscillators monitoring and control.

We demonstrate with this embedded device the measurement of the oscillation frequency of 433 MHz sensors with the synthesis of N (N>=3) fast counters in the FPGA, combined with image acquisition.

The resulting instrument is compared with a professional measurement instrument (Agilent 53131A).

Tools required and presented in this talk are VHDL programming, Linux module programming for fast communication with the hardware and efficient data processing in user space, as well as cross compilation of ARM9 binaries on an Intel x86 based computer. We will start with simple examples such as controling an LED, to develop means of exchanging data between the FPGA and the CPU. These basic tools will be applied to the capture and display of images gathered from a CMOS sensor (Omnivision OV6620) and the measurement of the frequency of radiofrequency oscillators (> 100 MHz).