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Cryoconnector for Sub Millimetre Astronomy Project

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Tekdata Interconnect Systems
: 26 February, 2010  (Application Story)
Wiring harnesses from the Cryoconnect Division of Tekdata to be used for the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope for sub-millimetre astronomy
Cryoconnector for Sub Millimetre Astronomy Project
Tekdata Interconnections’ Cryoconnect Division has delivered wiring harnesses for the UK Astronomy Technology Centre’s SCUBA 2 project, the world’s first large-format 'CCD-like' camera for sub-millimetre astronomy, which is being integrated with the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii. The harnesses use Tekdata’s connector-less vacuum feedthrough technology to couple the detector array, which has more than 10,000 pixels, to the SCUBA 2 camera’s read-out electronics.

The detectors are mounted inside a cryogenic cooler and are operated at a temperature of 100mK (−273.05 oC). Cryoconnect’s feedthroughs solve the challenge of establishing a reliable connection, hermetically sealed, eliminating the impedance losses that arise from all connections, and having ultra-low thermal mass, passing through the wall of the refrigerator. Each interconnect comprises 500 superconducting Niobium-Titanium wires in a Cryoconnect connector-less vacuum feedthrough terminated to 100-way micro D-type connectors.

Tekdata’s unique connector-less vacuum feedthrough technology achieves a lightweight, compact, sealed interconnect imposing minimal heat burden on the refrigerator. The low attenuation of the connector-less design also maximises coupling of the extremely low-strength signals and minimises any self-heating effects in the cables.

Connector-less feedthroughs also deliver numerous advantages at more ‘normal’ temperatures, including reducing the total number of connectors and hence saving purchasing and assembly costs. Eliminating connectors can also significantly reduce the electromagnetic footprint of military equipment.

According to Mark Howitt, Business Development Manager at Tekdata, “Connector-less feedthrough technology is just one of a broad selection of advanced, high-performance solutions we are able to deliver to customers, on a low-volume quick-turnaround basis when necessary, taking advantage of our outstanding in-house competencies.” Other unique, high-performance interconnect solutions include a nano-connect range of cables, harnesses and feed-throughs that are not only extremely small but also deliver valuable weight savings when used in applications such as portable infantry equipment. Related capabilities also include compact and lightweight EMC protection, which is used in a wide range of military, industrial, medical and consumer applications.

Explaining how Tekdata’s unequalled range of interconnect technologies delivers optimal value for customers, business development manager Mark Howitt said, “Because we have such a vast range of technologies at our disposal, we are free to create solutions using those technologies best suited to any given set of requirements, and are not constrained to offer a ‘best we can do’ response based on a limited set of competencies.”

Tekdata’s diverse interconnect technologies also include woven cables and Computaweave harnesses, which have been successful in saving space and weight for a variety of military and aerospace customers and also have applications in sectors such as motor sports and marine equipment. Woven interconnects provide extreme mechanical flexibility helping relieve strain on connectors for increased resilience and reliability as well as easier maintenance, and can comprise mixed strands of dissimilar wire types and gauges, optical fibres, or other elements such as pipes or hawsers. Tekdata’s proprietary Computaweave technology also allows highly optimised harnesses in which such strands can enter and exit the weave at any point. .

Drawing on its experience in military, aviation, space and medical sectors, the company is also able to design and mould bespoke connectors and components to maximise reliability and enhance routing and protection. Connectors can be shrink-fit, moulded or over-moulded types, or can be designed to incorporate active components such as filters or encryption PCBs. All of these can be designed with or without EMC shielding, including to TEMPEST, Land Class A and FCC Docket 20780 requirements.

In addition, Tekdata’s moulding technology has proved successful in a number of unusual requirements, such as routing pieces, knee bends, flexible over-moulded cable conduits, and mouldings to ensure minimum cable radii are maintained. These are often employed to help optimise the reliability and weight of interconnects in aerospace applications.
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