23-27 September 2013
Perugia, IT
Europe/Zurich timezone

TRB3 264 Channel High Precision TDC Platform and Its Applications

25 Sep 2013, 16:55
Perugia, IT

Perugia, IT

<font face="Verdana" size="2.5">Congress center Giò Via R. D'Andreotto, 19 06124 Perugia (PG) Italy
Poster Poster


Andreas Neiser (Institute of Nuclear Physics, Mainz - Germany)


The TRB3 features four FPGA-based TDCs with <20ps RMS time precision between two channels and 256+4+4 channels in total. One central FPGA provides flexible trigger functionality and GbE connectivity including powerful slow control. We present recent users' applications of this platform following the COME&KISS principle: Successful test beamtimes at CERN (CBM), in Juelich and Mainz with an FPGA-based discriminator board (PaDiWa), a charge-to-width FEE board with high dynamic range, read-out of the n-XYTER ASIC and software for data unpacking and TDC calibration in ROOT. We conclude with an outlook on future developments.


The 4+1 FPGA board "TRB3" can serve various applications in
experimental particle physics and beyond due to its general-purpose
design. It uses FPGAs as complex commercial electronic components
while realizing the remaining auxiliary parts with simple standard
components. Consequently, the board provides flexible connectivity by
eight SFP ports and mezzanine extensions for every FPGA including a
high pin-out for the peripheral FPGAs. We call this concept COME&KISS:
COMplex COMmercial Elements & Keep It Small and Simple. This ensures a
wide range of applications in data acquisition scenarios as well as a
long-term maintainability of the platform.

Usually, in each of the four peripheral FPGAs a tapped delay line TDC
is implemented with <20ps RMS time precision between two channels
providing 64 channels plus one reference channel. The TDCs are used
for leading edge measurements or by using the TDC channels in pairs,
one can additionally extract the width of the digital pulse. The
central FPGA serves as a flexible central trigger system and manages
slow control and read-out of the peripheral FPGAs over a single
gigabit Ethernet connection. The project provides a comfortable,
robust and modular software environment, ranging from low-level
register access to the FPGA firmwares on the command line to
high-level control via web2.0 technologies. This is complemented by
comprehensive specifications and documentation.

To convert the analog signals from the detector to digital pulses
suitable for the TDC, the front-end electronics board PaDiWa was
designed using the differential input buffers of an FPGA as
discriminators with a PWM generated voltage as a variable threshold.
However, the charge information of the pulse extracted from time over
threshold is usually not precise enough for calorimeters. Thus, the
leading edge measurement can be complemented by a modified Wilkinson
ADC circuit, which encodes the charge in the width of the digital
pulse delivered to the TDC. A proof-of-concept board was successfully
tested and a version with an improved dynamic range is currently
designed. Both approaches follow again the COME&KISS principle,
already enabling other groups to use the existing FEE boards without
major modifications. The overall reliability, flexibility and
performance of this platform was proven in three test beamtimes with
different detectors and FEEs at CERN (CBM), in Juelich and Mainz with
up to 2400 channels, of which results are shown.

Furthermore, the TRB3 can be used as an infrastructure to read out
specialized integrated solutions using the peripheral FPGAs, for
example to provide a timing reference, transport the acquired data to
the eventbuilder and slow control configuration of the chip. This was
realized for the n-XYTER ASIC. Additionally, the platform enables
every user group to profit from common software developments, such as
a ROOT unpacker for the TDC datastream including the necessary
calibration of the delay lines.

Finally, we present planned extensions of the platform: The detection
of leading and trailing edge in a single TDC channel, which doubles
the number of channels per board for timestamp and width measurements,
and the integration in data acquisition frameworks such as DABC.

Primary author

Andreas Neiser (Institute of Nuclear Physics, Mainz - Germany)


Adrian Schmidt (Physikalisches Institut IV, Universitaet Erlangen-Nuernberg - Germany) Cahit Ugur (GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research GmbH, Darmstadt - Germany) Grzegorz Korcyl (Jagiellonian University, Krakow – Poland) Jan Michel (Goethe-University Frankfurt - Germany) Joern Adamczewski-Musch (GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research GmbH, Darmstadt - Germany) Ludwig Maier (Technische Universitaet Muenchen, Munich - Germany) Manuel Penschuck (Goethe-University, Frankfurt - Germany) Marek Palka (Jagiellonian University, Krakow – Poland) Matthias Hoek (Institute of Nuclear Physics, Mainz - Germany) Michael Traxler (GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research GmbH, Darmstadt - Germany) Sergey Linev (GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research GmbH, Darmstadt - Germany) Wolfgang Koenig (GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research GmbH, Darmstadt - Germany)

Presentation Materials