The Advanced L-band Phased Array Camera (ALPACA) is a wide-field astronomical receiver that will be housed on the Green Bank Telescope (GBT). This instrument features a fully cryogenic 69-element phased array feed (PAF) front end and digital beamformer back end. It will provide a wide and continuous field of view at L-band and high sensitivity with a system noise temperature below 27 K. Transport of the received astronomical signals on 138 individual channels from prime focus of the GBT to the digital back end -- over a distance of 3 km -- will be provided by a custom RF-over-fiber (RFoF) system. The development and experimental verification of the custom RFoF link are presented. A 16-channel fiber receiver board custom-tailored for attachment to the Xilinx ZCU216 RF system-on-chip (RFSoC) provides minimum isolation of 36 dB between channels, a gain repeatability within 3 dB between channels, and less than 2 dBpp gain ripple. Full link tests on the RFoF system, including fiber transmitter and receiver, indicate less than .89 K contribution to ALPACA's overall system noise temperature while providing 25 to 46 dB of linear dynamic range and 30 to 38 dB of spurious-free dynamic range across 1300-1720 MHz. These results meet specified design requirements and affirm that the RFoF system will allow ALPACA to achieve high sensitivity and operate as a wide-field astronomical receiver on the GBT. Measurements and models of the ALPACA cross-dipole element and low noise amplifier are also given. The dipole model is resilient to changes to cryostat structure and the measurements and models of the as-built dipole are in agreement. The cryogenic low noise amplifiers perform as expected under room temperature operation in terms of gain, noise, and linearity. These results validate that the front-end technology is on track to meet specifications and will allow ALPACA to achieve instrument objectives.



College and Department

Electrical and Computer Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





radio astronomy, RF-over-fiber, phased array feeds, analog front end, astronomical receiver, Green Bank Telescope



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Engineering Commons