Tyndall National Institute is one of Europe's leading research centres, specialising in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) hardware. Tyndall has a critical mass of over 360 researchers, engineers, students and support staff placing a particular emphasis on quality, accomplishment and the delivery to Ireland of value from research. Tyndall’s areas of expertise range from micro-nanolectronics, microsystems, and photonics to theory modeling supported by a central fabrication facility.
(Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), 2021-10-11) Reza, Manuel; Serafino, Giovanni; Otto, Tobias; Mohammad, Ahmad W. M.; Mohammadhosseini, Hakimeh; Shiramin, Leili A.; Floris, Francesco; Kolb, Matthias; Bail, Dave; Gabrielli, Simone; Roeloffzen, Chris G. H.; Van Dijk, Paulus W. L.; Abbasi, Amin; Desoete, Bart; Ghelfi, Paolo; Horizon 2020
Synthetic aperture radar is a remote sensing technology finding applications in a wide range of fields, especially related to Earth observation. It enables a fine imaging that is crucial in critical activities, like environmental monitoring for natural resource management or disasters prevention. In this picture, the scan-on-receive paradigm allows for enhanced imaging capabilities thanks to wide swath observations at finer azimuthal resolution achieved by beamforming of multiple simultaneous antenna beams. Recently, solutions based on microwave photonics techniques demonstrated the possibility of an efficient implementation of beamforming, overcoming some limitations posed by purely electronic solutions, offering unprecedented flexibility and precision to RF systems. Moreover, photonics-assisted RF beamformers can nowadays be realized as integrated circuits, with reduced size and power consumption with respect to digital beamforming approaches. This paper presents the design analysis and the challenges of the development of a hybrid photonic-integrated circuit as the core element of an X-band scan-on-receive spaceborne synthetic aperture radar. The proposed photonic-integrated circuit synthetizes three simultaneous scanning beams on the received signal, and performs the frequency down-conversion, guaranteeing a compact 15 cm2-form factor, less than 6 W power consumption, and 55 dB of dynamic range. The whole photonics-assisted system is designed for space compliance and meets the target application requirements, representing a step forward toward a deeper penetration of photonics in microwave applications for challenging scenarios, like the observation of the Earth from space.