Low-cost data acquisition card for school-network cosmic ray detectors

Sten Hansen, Thomas Jordan, Terry Kiper, Dan Claes, Gregory Snow, Hans Berns, T. H. Burnett, Richard Gran, R. Jeffrey Wilkes

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The Cosmic Ray Observatory Project (CROP) at University of Nebraska/Lincoln and the Washington Area Large-scale Time coincidence Array (WALTA) at University of Washington/Seattle are among several outreach projects siting cosmic-ray detectors at local high schools in cities around North America, to study the origins and interactions of high-energy cosmic rays. In a collaboration between QuarkNet, the outreach program based at Fermilab, CROP, and WALTA, a low-cost data acquisition electronics card has been developed to collect and synchronize the data from each detector site. The cost for each card is under US$500 for parts, functionally replacing much more expensive electronics crates and modules at each high school site. The card has 4 analog discriminator inputs for photo-multiplier tube signals, a 4-channel Time-to-Digital converter for local coincidence and time-over-threshold measurements at 0.75 ns resolution, programmable trigger logic via a CPLD and microcontroller, and a built-in low-cost GPS receiver/antenna module (via external cable) to provide event trigger time stamps at better than 100 ns accuracy. Temperature sensors and a barometer are also integrated to record environmental data along with the counter data. The card connects to any PC or laptop via a standard RS-232 serial port for data output and control. The microcontroller and CPLD are field programmable and therefore make the card functionality flexible and easy to upgrade.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberN8-1
Pages (from-to)130-133
Number of pages4
JournalIEEE Nuclear Science Symposium Conference Record
StatePublished - 2003
Event2003 IEEE Nuclear Science Symposium Conference Record - Nuclear Science Symposium, Medical Imaging Conference - Portland, OR, United States
Duration: Oct 19 2003Oct 25 2003


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