Configurable Integrated Power Input/Output Systems for Avionic Applications

Professors :
Enterprise partner: Thales Canada Avionique

Government partner: Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)

Thales Canada's develops control systems for avionics applications, which operate in harsh environments that may compromise the functionality of very high density chips: electromagnetic interference, lightning strikes and cosmic radiations. The company needs to develop a generic power interface for different avionics applications with a high level of criticality : flight control, spoilers control, flaps control. However, such circuitry requires a lot of space on PCBs when implemented as discrete components, such as in the company's existing products. A reasonable trade-off between ASICs and discrete components is the concept of System in Package (SiP). SiP allows more than one integrated circuit inside the same package with very dense interconnects between bare-dies. Also, SiP technology now allows chips of heterogeneous technologies to be integrated inside the same package, giving designers more flexibility.

Heterogeneous integration of high power and high voltage systems along with lower power systems through SiP technologies in a high reliability context suited to avionics is the focus of this collaborative research project. While ASIC are an attractive solution, robustness problems, such as dielectric breakdown, may emerge when considering high voltage inputs. Ultimately, SiP integration of the entire power system would be a significant reduction in the PCB dimensions for the power circuits and potentially enhanced functionality. Accordingly, the main objective of the research project is to elaborate methods and techniques to design compact, configurable and integrated input/output power systems for transportation vehicles under harsh conditions. A collection of highly flexible and reconfigurable elements to support a plurality of monitoring and controlling functions for power systems will be investigated. These methods and techniques will allow integrating these heterogeneous elements into a minimum set of SiP modules. Upon successful completion of this research, a new flexible power system will be configurable according to different specifications in terms of power, response time and accuracy that are required in the avionics industries. This NSERC Collaborative Research and Development project started in 2018 in collaboration with Thales Canada, Avionics, and Lacime professors’ Yves Blaquière, Frédéric Nabki, Nicolas Constantin.

Project CRIAQ AVIO-403

Professor Thibeault is the university leader of the CRIAQ AVIO-403 Project on the impact of cosmic radiations on on-board avionics systems. Professor Boland is also actively involved in the project, primarily at the level of choosing avionics systems architectures and developing a fault simulation platform. Officially launched in March 2009, this project brings together seven professors from three universities: Polytechnique de Montréal, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and ÉTS. Included in these partnerships are industrialists such as Bombardier Aeronautics, Thales France, MDA Corporation, and the Canadian Space Agency. It should be noted that this project is being carried out in conjunction with another start-up project in France involving several companies, including Thales and other industrial partners. The CRIAQ AVIO-403 project was launched on 1 March 2009.

Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) simulator

Professor Kouki, in collaboration with Professor Belzile, and his research team working on a project to develop a Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) simulator capable of simulating GPS and Galileo satellite constellations, made significant progress in their research work this past year. Funded by NSERC and CMC Electronics and also supported by the Canadian Space Agency, this project developed a first prototype of the simulator which integrates three cores into a single physical platform: software, real-time signal processing and radio frequency circuitry. When the simulator was demonstrated in the presence of representatives of CMC Electronics, the Canadian Space Agency and the Centre de recherche en communication (CRC), the attendees expressed great satisfaction with the work done. Mr. Jim King, the CRC representative, even commented on the economic potential in Canada of an affordable simulator based on the current prototype. Preliminary discussions with companies specialised in test equipment are currently underway to assess the technology transfer potential and economic profitability of the research results.

Gallium nitride (GaN) transistors

In April 2008, Professor Kouki submitted, as head scientist, a grant application to the NSERC strategic program. This application involves modeling transistors made from a very promising semi-conductor, gallium nitride (GaN), and their use in the design and development of various types of amplifiers. Given its many benefits, several companies are interested in using this semiconductor for various applications. Thus, in addition to the collaboration of Professor Ghannouchi and his team at the University of Calgary, Nortel Networks, the Canadian Space Agency and Nitronex, an American funder, are actively involved in this project, since they respectively are interested in high-energy efficient power amplifiers, GaN technology space applications, and in promoting the use of the technology in various sectors.  NSERC awarded Professor Kouki and his collaborator a substantial three-year grant in November 2008. Research activities have since begun and an agreement granting ÉTS students access to the Canadian Space Agency’s unique test facilities within the framework of this project is currently being finalised.

Improved mobile communications by satellite positioning

Satellite positioning using GPS or another system is becoming increasingly accessible through dedicated terminals or multi-function communication devices such as cell phones. Knowing the location of a wireless communication terminal, through GPS use, for example, and having geographical information on the area where it is located make it possible to communicate more effectively using smart antennas. This theme is the subject of a three-year research grant awarded to Professor Kouki, as head scientist, by the FQRNT Team Research Project Program. In collaboration with Professor Gagnon and Dr. Basile Agba, a researcher at IREQ and Associate Professor with the electrical engineering department at ÉTS, Professor Kouki hopes to demonstrate the potential benefits of using this technology in tactical communications. This research project is a continuation of the collaboration these three researchers began many years ago.

Miniature duplexers

For several years now, Professor Kouki has been working to develop a new duplexer technology. These devices that allow for transmitting powerful signals to a frequency while listening to very weak signals at another adjacent frequency using a single antenna play a significant role in wireless communication systems, and are found in billions of cell phones and other terminals. Due to Professor Kouki’s work in this area, a patent has been obtained and two others are pending. An initial grant under the NSERC INNOV Program made it possible to develop miniaturised prototypes of these new duplexers. This year, a new grant awarded Professor Kouki under the same INNOV Program will allow him and his team to attain a higher level of duplexer miniaturisation by using three-dimensional manufacturing offered by the new in LTCC technology-based prototyping procedure that was recently installed in LACIME’s clean room. These projects have already captured the interest of TriQuint Semiconductors and Mitec Telecom, American and Montreal companies respectively.

Field experiments

COMunité’s mobile unit easily succeeded in carrying out its first tests in June 2008. In fact, we were able to help Ultra Electronics set up a 32 Mbits point-to-point link over a 55km distance. After these first tests, a new series of tests spanning three days (30-31 October and 5 November) was conducted using the Chair's mobile station. These tests were conducted under diverse conditions: direct line of sight overlooking an Ontario site in the north of Lancaster, an urban environment around ÉTS and finally a wooded environment near Mirabel.

Designed for studying a WiMAX 802.16d communication, these tests were conducted using both the directional antenna integrated into the client module and a non-directional antenna purchased for the purpose of these tests.


Increased capacity for PocketSurfer2

Following a geographical coverage problem faced when using their product, PocketSurfer2, the R&D division of DataWind Ltd., located at Rue René Lévesque in Montréal, turned to Professor Kouki to help them diagnose and solve the problem. Designed and developed in Montréal, PocketSurfer2 is a product sold across the world and which allows users to surf the Internet using the GPRS service with a terminal more use-friendly than a standard cell phone. Thanks to his expertise and the cutting-edge facilities available at LACIME, Professor Kouki advised this company and helped to improve the product’s internal electronics, and, as a result, significantly increased the coverage of PocketSufer2.

Patented 3D cinema technology

Sensio Technologies Inc. has recently obtained a patent from the US Patent and Trademark Office entitled Process and System for Encoding and Playback of Stereoscopic Video Sequences. According to SENSIO’s CEO, Mr. Nicholas Routhier, “obtaining this first patent is a milestone in the history of our company because it legitimises and asserts our intellectual ownership with studios and manufacturers, and supports our licensed sales business model. Henceforth, clients and partners who want to use SENSIOMD 3D technology can do so based on a solidly established and clearly defined intellectual property, which gives us an edge over our competitors. Having obtained this patent and given the recently announced developments, we believe we have significantly increased our chances of becoming the standard for 3D distribution in the consumer market.” Professor Thibeault is the second inventor behind this patent, which is the result of collaboration projects headed by the former.

The SimSyC cosimulation interface

Professor Boland is working on developing a cosimulation mechanism between MATLAB/Simulink and SystemC, called SimSyC. The primary goal of this interface is to bridge the algorithmic abstraction level to lower levels. Thus, it is possible to reuse high level models to validate and verify system architecture or register transfer models. The time spent on test bench development is significantly reduced by reusing data analysis and generation modules. Using the pre-verified building blocksets library in Simulink increases test bench quality and efficiency. Moreover, SimSyC allows for using specialised libraries and the graphic interface in Simulink to more efficiently analyse the behaviour of a SystemC model. The results of experiments based on three case studies have shown that the time spent developing test benches is reduced by a factor which may vary from one to two orders of magnitude. Moreover, SimSyC can be used to develop multi-level abstraction verification strategies that have heretofore been impossible.