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The Integrated Circuits (IC) group operates under the Basic Sciences and Enabling Technologies research area from the Instituto de Telecomunicações (IT). This group has several divisions operating in different IT poles. The group at the IT Aveiro site has focused on electronic system design for communication and physical instrumentation applications. The output of the group has followed two design approaches: ASIC design using standard CMOS or SiGe BiCMOS processes for analog applications; and FPGA prototyping for digital applications. Current research activities are organized into the following lines:

  • Free-space optical communication systems: This is an area with long tradition on this group. Past contributions have been focused on indoor wireless infra-red communication systems design, covering mostly physical layer design aspects. Examples of these contributions are: design of diversity receivers for signal to noise ratio maximization, optical signal detection and amplification, synchronization and clock recovery circuits, low noise and high bandwidth amplifiers, among others. Recently the group’s attention has been shifting into visible light communication systems and their applications. In particular, the exploitation of LEDs in future lighting devices offers many interesting application scenarios.
  • LED based public illumination systems: A current research target in this group, the exploitation of LEDs as lighting devices opens new opportunities for energy saving. It is internationally recognized that public illumination is responsible for 2% of the energy consumption at a world wide scale. This translates into higher energy costs for communities. The group’s interest on this subject is focused on the development of cooperative strategies in order to optimize energy use in these systems. These strategies aggregate a set of sensors and embedded intelligence able to deal with the collected sensor’s data.
  • Synchronization and jitter analysis: The work developed under this line of research has been focusing on synchronization issues in large scale clock distribution networks. Main contributions have been dealing with jitter accumulation and amplification mechanisms in complex digital VLSI circuits, culminating in the proposal of models for jitter impact prediction for next generation CMOS processes and beyond. The research under this line has the potential to motivate synergies with other areas of research, where the synchronous paradigm plays a key role.
  • Surface acoustic wave (SAW) devices: This is also a current research trend. Research efforts concentrate on the usage of SAW devices for passive sensing applications. On going co-operation with the Mechanical Engineering department at University of Aveiro is exploring new issues on the association of these devices and diamond growing techniques. Diamond growing on silicon substrates is a relatively new area of research where important applications may arise. In particular, the use of diamond coatings as protecting layers is of particular importance for sensor applications in harsh environments. An example of particular importance is the development of sensors for deep space exploration.
  • Electronic system design for radio astronomy applications: Radio astronomy is a multidisciplinary area of research involving the cooperation between engineering and physics fields. The IC group competences cover a broad spectrum of applications found in radio astronomy. Group’s contributions on this line of research has been focused on the development of high-sensitivity and very low noise electronic front-ends able to detect low temperature fluctuations due to the cosmic microwave background. Moreover, the necessity of platforms able to correlate the detected high frequency noise in real time has lead the group to new digital design approaches resorting to FPGAs and GPUs. This line of research is also a driving force deploying inter group cooperation’s able to address the challenging problems found on design of large antenna arrays often used in radio telescopes. One member of the IC group is representing Portugal on the SKA project (Square Kilometer Array).
These activities are supported both nationally (FCT – Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia) and internationally (FP7). Cooperation with industry other research institutions and other research groups inside IT, has been a common framework driving these projects.

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