Electronics Group
03 May 2011



Electronics Group




Group Capabilities and Facilities

The Electronic Engineering Group at the UK ATC is involved in the design, testing and integration of very complex electronic systems for the most demanding astronomical applications. The heart of any of these systems is usually the very latest in detector technology and we have extensive experience in building complete end to end systems for optical, infrared and sub-millimeter detectors. The group works closely with detector manufacturers to develop new detector technologies through detailed testing and characterisation.

In support of the detector systems the group has gained a great deal of expertise in the design of high speed, low noise, analogue and digital electronics as well as cryogenic electronics. The group also has expertise in control engineering, implementing complex telescope control systems to cryogenic mechanism control systems. The group provides a range of solutions for mechanism control, temperature and vacuum control for both astronomy and non-astronomy instruments. The group contributes to innovative research projects undertaken at the UKATC involving electronics and embedded processors typically based on microcontrollers, covering the aspects of the electronics design and development of low-level firmware.

The detector test facilities include custom built cryocooled, low background test cryostats equipped with well characterised optical filters for characterising detectors, calibrated photodiodes, blackbody and pyro-electric radiometers for absolute radiometry from visible to beyond 20um. The group has a dedicated purpose built class 1000 clean room with a class 100 laminar flow control cabinet and electrostatic discharge safe workspace and basic environmental test facilities. The electronics workshop has the capability of manufacturing a wide range of electronic assemblies, such as enclosures, surface mount printed circuit boards and cryogenic wiring harness all to ESA space qualification level.

Current and Recent Key Projects:

  • Detector Developments
    Test and characterisation of optical detectors, new large format near infrared detectors, short-wave infrared detectors for earth observations, long wave and very long wave infrared detectors using custom build test facilities.
  • MOONS (Instrument of VLT)
    Design and build of fibre positioners, support and integration of 4K x 4K optical and near infrared detectors. Also support of assemble and integration of the instrument.
  • Goniometer (Instrument for Diamond)
    Control of a high precession, six axes goniometer under vacuum with sample cooled down to cryogenic operating temperatures to study macromolecular crystallography with i23 beam line of the Diamond Light Source.
  • GHOST Spectrometer
    Design and build of a near infrared camera and instrument control for the Global hawk un-manned aerial vehicle to study distribution of greenhouse gasses from troposphere.
    A four channel fast photometer for high time resolution astronomy applications based on e2v frame transfer CCDs.
  • AMD Densitometer
    Design and build of control electronics and detector system to help detect age-related macular degeneration.
  • CCD Cameras
    CCD camera system for HESP Echelle spectrograph based on e2v CCD231 (4Kx4K CCD)
  • EELT Instrument Studies
    HARMONI, HIRES, and EAGLE: Various aspects of the instrument control design and detector support systems.
  • KMOS (Instrument for VLT)
    Instrument housekeeping electronics, support of detector systems and control system for cable co-rotator.
  • HARPS-N (Instrument for TNG)
    Control electronics for science CCD, instrument frontend electronics, tip/tilt control system and auto-guider system.

Head of Group

Domain / skills

  • Detector engineering (optical to Sub-mm);
  • Instrument Control;
  • Control engineering;
  • Data acquisition system design;
  • low-noise analogue and cryogenic design;
  • FPGA design;
  • Motion control systems;
  • Image/data analysis;
  • ESA qualified electronics manufacturing


  • Altium Design Suite
  • LabVIEW
  • MatLab/Simulik
  • Mentor Graphics
  • IDL
  • Mathcad
  • Optical/IR detector calibration systems