Floating on atmospheric balloons and encased under miles of polar ice, ultra-high energy particle detectors come with obvious maintenance challenges. To work, they must be impervious to cold and maintenance free. Logistics, however, make developing instruments on-site impractical to say the least.
Enter the CCAPP Antarctic RF Test facility (CART), the only one-stop-shop in the U.S. for quick-turnaround electronics development and complete commissioning of equipment at Antarctic temperatures. CCAPP scientists are using the facility to contribute to some of the most significant neutrino experiments in the world today.
CART tools include a PCB mill and a Pick and Place machine that CCAPP scientists use to test and tweak electronics in-house. Rounds of revisions for new boards that would take months of shipping back and forth to a company instead take just days. The facility’s advanced equipment also includes special chambers that can replicate Arctic conditions within minutes for up to months at a time to test an instrument’s performance in extreme cold. Other specially designed chambers block human radio frequencies, creating a space for testing new instruments free from interference.
The opportunities CART affords have drawn more than one national talent to Ohio State. For the 2014 ANITA flight, for example, CCAPP researchers created the antennas and the amplifiers that help distinguish signals from noise. Currently they are testing antennas for the Askaryan Radio Array before they go into the ice roughly 200m below the Antarctic surface.
Without question, CART’s unique capabilities place CCAPP scientists at the center of some of the biggest and most exciting experiments of our time.