New Brazilian SAMPA Chip Will Be Used For Major Large Hadron Collider Upgrade

The new chip will be used on ALICE's detection system.

The new SAMPA chip will upgrade ALICE at the Large Hadron Collider.
Dean Mouhtaropoulos / Getty Images

The new chip will be used on ALICE's detection system.

A Large Ion Collider Experiment (ALICE) is just one out of four exciting experiments that are currently happening at the Large Hadron Collider, and now a new Brazilian chip called SAMPA has received the approval to help upgrade ALICE’s detection system.

The University of São Paulo’s Engineering School in Brazil is responsible for the creation of SAMPA, and with rigorous testing having already been conducted on the chip, SAMPA has finally won the approval to be manufactured in Taiwan. Nearly 88,000 units of the new chip will now be created to prepare for ALICE’S upgrade at the Large Hadron Collider, according to Phys.org.

Marcelo Munhoz, who works at USP’s Physics Institute and is also one of the top individuals responsible for the creation of the chip, explained that SAMPA will be utilized for two specific projects of ALICE.

“The new chips will be used to instrument two of ALICE’s detectors: the TPC (Time Projection Chamber) and the MCH (Muon Chamber). The TPC tracks the charged particles produced in the LHC. The MCH specifically measures muons.”

Elaborating further on the importance of the new chip, Munhoz described SAMPA’s function at the Large Hadron Collider and how all of the chips used at the LHC work together in conjunction with external processors.

“The job done by each chip is to read out the incident charges, transform the readout into a voltage signal, convert the signal from analog to digital, perform internal digital processing, and send the information to external processors. All the chips operating together will produce those famous images of collisions showing jets of thousands of particles, each of which follows a specific path.”

At the moment, ALICE relies on two chips when it comes to the 16 channel sets it uses. One of these chips is currently able to detect charges to come up with the correct voltage signal, while the second chip takes the analog signal and manages to convert it so that it can conduct digital pre-processing.

Once the new SAMPA chips are in place, only one of these will be needed in the future to achieve both of these functions. It will also have the capacity of working with 32 channels rather than the current 16.

After further testing is conducted on the chips in Sweden, they will be installed in ALICE at the Large Hadron Collider sometime between 2019 and 2020. This is crucial, as Marcelo Munhoz confirms that the equipment currently in use would never be able to deal with the collision rates that are expected in the future.

“This itself makes SAMPA necessary because the existing equipment wouldn’t be able to handle such a huge increase in the collision rate. Today, ALICE is operating at 500 collisions per second. In 2021, it’s expected to operate at 50,000 collisions per second. The scientists foresee that this will increase the probability of rare events such as the production of heavier quarks or the formation of light-element anti-nuclei.”

With the new SAMPA chips set to be installed on the ALICE project at the Large Hadron Collider in just another year or two, the LHC’s potential will increase dramatically.