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THIS MONTH'S FEATURE ARTICLE
Engineers will be called upon to find solutions for the challenges the world will face in the 21st century. These articles highlight the diversity of the work which continues in the search for those solutions.

New and Improved Version of Phased Array Feed Developed
July 2018

To accelerate the pace of discovery and exploration of the cosmos, a multi-institution team of astronomers and engineers has developed a new and improved version of an unconventional radio-astronomy imaging system known as a Phased Array Feed (PAF). This remarkable instrument can survey vast swaths of the sky and generate multiple views of astronomical objects with unparalleled efficiency.


Infographic demonstrating the layout of the newly designed Phased Array Feed receiver that was tested on the Green Bank Telescope. Credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF; S. Dangello.

Looking nothing like a camera or other traditional imaging technologies – like CCDs in optical telescopes or single receivers in radio telescopes – this new Phased Array Feed design resembles a forest of miniature tree-like antennas evenly arranged on a meter-wide metal plate. When mounted on a single-dish radio telescope, specialized computers and signal processors are able to combine the signals among the antennas to create a virtual multi-pixel camera.

According to information, this type of instrument is particularly useful in a number of important areas of astronomical research, including the study of hydrogen gas raining in on our galaxy and in searches for enigmatic Fast Radio Bursts.

Over the years, various other radio astronomy research facilities have developed phased array receiver designs. Most, however, have not achieved the efficiency necessary to compete with classical radio receiver designs, which process one signal from one spot on the sky at a time. The value of the new PAF is that it can form multiple views (or “beams on the sky,” in radio astronomy terms) with the same efficiency as a classical receiver, which can enable faster scans of multiple astronomical targets.

This newly developed system helps take Phased Array Feed technology from a curious area of research to a highly efficient, multipurpose tool for exploring the universe.

Commissioning observations with the National Science Foundation’s Green Bank Telescope (GBT) using this new design show that this instrument met and exceeded all testing goals. It also achieved the lowest operating noise temperature – a normally vexing problem for clear views of the sky — of any phased array receiver to date. This milestone is critical to move the technology from an experimental design to a fully fledged observing instrument.

The results are published in the Astronomical Journal.

The new PAF was designed by a consortium of institutions: the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s (NRAO) Central Development Laboratory, Green Bank Observatory, and Brigham Young University.

“This project brings together in one instrument a state-of-the-art, low-noise receiver design, next generation multi-channel digital radio technology, and advanced phased array modeling and beamforming,” said Bill Shillue, PAF group lead at the NRAO’s Central Development Laboratory.

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.



Feature Articles
Below are listed the 12 most recent Feature Articles.
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New and Improved Version of Phased Array Feed Developed
July 2018

To accelerate the pace of discovery and exploration of the cosmos, a multi-institution team of astronomers and engineers has developed a new and improved version of an unconventional radio-astronomy imaging system…

FIRST® Announces Landmark 2019 Season Theme
June 2018

FIRST ® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an international K-12 not-for-profit organization founded by prolific inventor Dean Kamen, recently announced that more than 575,000 students will explore space across all four FIRST programs…

Researchers Study Upcycling Manure Into Paper Products
May 2018

It’s likely not the first thing you think of when you see elephant dung, but this material turns out to be an excellent source of cellulose for paper manufacturing…

‘Fog Harp’ Increases Collection Capacity For Clean Water
April 2018

Installing giant nets along hillsides and mountaintops to catch water out of thin air sounds more like folly than science.

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry Visits Jefferson Lab
March 2018

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry on February 21st visited the U.S. Department of Energy’s Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab)…

Engineers Week 2018
February 2018

Founded in 1951 by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), Engineers Week, one of the oldest of America’s professional outreach efforts, celebrates its 67th anniversary in 2018.

Findings Suggest Authentic Research Programs Keep Students In Science
January 2018

Over the last nine years, more than 8,800 bacteria-infecting viruses have been discovered by students exploring scientific research for the first time – most during their first year of college.

Cricket Media and IEEE Team Up To Launch TryEngineering Together™
December 2017

As part of the global commitment to develop a robust STEM workforce for the future, Cricket Media, Inc. and IEEE

Poplar Trees Clean Up Superfund Sites With Help From Probiotics
November 2017

Researchers from the University of Washington (UW) and several small companies have conducted the first large-scale experiment on a Superfund site using poplar trees fortified with a probiotic…

Center For Innovative Technology Awarded $4.8 Million To Enhance Smart Cities
October 2017

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) recently announced a $4.8 million contract award to the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) of Herndon, Virginia…

VCU Engineering’s Medicines for All Institute Awarded $25 Million
September 2017

The Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Engineering has been awarded a $25 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to establish the Medicines for All Institute and to fund the institute’s work on a wide range of essential global health treatments.

Torc Self-Driving Car Welcomed Home From Cross-Country Trip
August 2017

After driving itself through 20 states on its maiden cross-country road trip, the Torc self-driving car recently gave a test ride to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and Secretary of Technology Karen Jackson as they welcomed it home.


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