Data conversion within the test and measurement domain and communications industry is moving into the gigasamples per second (GSPS) range. Developing a system capable of processing data at these speeds requires diverse engineering disciplines from the initial system concept through to board design, FPGA logic design, signal processing, and application software.

National Semiconductor has developed a leading-edge analog-to-digital (A/D) converter that can deliver as many as three billion samples per second to an 8-bit resolution. One of the main system design questions from customers regarding this product is how data can be reliably captured and processed at this speed. Therefore, National’s applications team designed a development platform to provide a solution to this query and demonstrate a reliable data-capture method. This allows the design focus to shift away from the high-speed front end so that developers can focus on their intended application.

The platform also demonstrates that high clock speeds can be reached while maintaining low power dissipation sufficient for the entire system to be housed in a small enclosure, as would be required for a commercial or industrial system. In this article, I’ll explain the techniques and analysis involved in achieving this goal.

Reprinted with permission from Xcell Journal / First Quarter 2006. Article © Xcell Journal.