Pentek Digital Signal Processing System Powers Imaging Research

4/13/2004 - Since the early 90's researchers at the University of Washington and IBM have been involved in developing a practical technology for imaging the 3-dimensional structure of individual molecules. This technology, called Magnetic Resonance Force Microscopy (MRFM), can address the needs of nanoscale engineering, materials science, molecular biology and medicine.

Pentek, Inc., the industry pioneer of VME board-level technology, was selected by the University of Washington to provide a DSP (digital signal processing) platform for the University's adaptive cantilever control system that can study molecular structures at resolutions better than 1 Angstrom (10-10 m) in situ. Three identical controller and diagnostic systems will be used for 3-dimensional MRFM in the future. DSPCon, a Pentek integration partner, was responsible for the custom software development, integration and testing of the system.

Professor John A. Sidles at the University of Washington explained the importance of MRFM, "One of the oldest dreams of science is the direct imaging of biomolecular structures, in situ, with atomic resolution. By combining scanning probe microscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance imaging and quantum observation technologies, we are making steady progress toward the goal of comprehensive biomicroscopy via single-spin imaging, to the point that this quantum microscope technology will likely be commercialized within the next two years. The Pentek DSP platform is a crucial element in achieving this goal."

A Pentek Model 4294 Quad G4 PowerPC VME board, with two VIM mezzanine sites, was chosen for its 16 Gflops of floating-point signal processing power and optimized high throughput I/O. The MPC7410 incorporates enhanced cache features, allowing users to directly map cache to the main memory; this permits increased determinism on critical sections of processing code.

In this time-critical cantilever control system, the bidirectional FIFO (first in, first out) memories of the Model 4294 mezzanine interfaces satisfy the extremely low latency requirement between analog input and analog output signals.

One mezzanine site hosts the Model 6216 Dual Channel 65 MHz 12-bit A/D converter with programmable-gain amplifiers, anti-aliasing filters and digital downconverters. The analog cantilever sense signal is digitized by one of the A/D converters and then delivered to the processor board.

The second mezzanine site is occupied by the Model 6229 Digital Upconverter that includes two 12-bit 200 MHz D/A converters with a DC to 80 MHz range. It accepts the synchronization signal input from the 6216 and one of the D/A converters generates the analog output control voltage to complete the loop.

The 4294 communicates with a Sun Blade Workstation via its 10/100 BaseT Ethernet interface. This arrangement proved extremely useful for downloading development code, debugging and streaming data out of the system for tasks such as simulation comparisons. VxWorks is used as the real-time operating system.

About Pentek
Pentek develops, manufactures and markets innovative DSP systems to original equipment manufacturers, distributors and value-added resellers. Pentek offers powerful VME, PMC, VIM and PCI boards for data acquisition, software radio and digital signal processing featuring Texas Instruments' C6000 DSPs, Motorola's G4 PowerPC and Xilinx FPGAs. Pentek I/O includes A/Ds, D/As, digital receivers and upconverters and more. Pentek equips its products with high-speed interfaces including RACE++ and FPDP-II and offers strong DSP software support.

Pentek and VIM are trademarks or registered trademarks of Pentek, Inc. in the U.S. and/or internationally.

North American Sales Contact: Mario Schiavone, Pentek, Inc., One Park Way, Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458-2311; telephone 201-818-5900, ext. 760; fax 201-818-5904; email, website

International Sales Contacts: VSystems SA in France at 130070060, VSystems Electronic GmbH in Germany at 892737630, VSystems s.r.l. in Italy at 11.966 1319, VSystems AB in Sweden at 84441550, VSystems UK at 1256-338423, WTI in Israel at 99-563163 and MISH International in Japan at 42-538-7650.

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