Monday, September 15, 2008

CERN - MANAS The Big Bang Chips Developed by Indian Scientists from Calcutta

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After the CERN scientists in Geneva is able to successfully accelerate two proton beams, approaching each other from opposite directions, to as much as 99.9999% the speed of light through the giant tubular Large Hadron Collider ring, a large mammoth amount of data is expected to be generated following the impact after each collision. 

To help store and process these exceedingly vast volume of data following the collision, highly specialized Chips have been designed by two notable Indian Scientists belonging to the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics or SINP in Calcutta, India. 

Swapan Sen and Sandeep Sarkar have together developed the highly powerful and sophisticated Multiplex Analog Signal Processor (MANAS) chip for the CERN's Big Bang Experimental project. 

It is these MANAS chips which is going to play an extremely important role by recording and storing the data for processing to help find extremely vital clues.

These clues would enable the scientists at CERN to determine the exact nature of the state of matter following the Big Bang to be simulated inside the Large Hadron Collider

These exceedingly important data are to be stored in the Indian made MANAS chips that would help the scientists to unfold the great mystery surrounding the actual origin of both Mass and Matter in the Universe. 

In a matter of micro-seconds, when the mini Big Bang occurs under controlled laboratory conditions , the MANAS chips will immediately begin to record the exact time, duration and the location of data that is to be generated during each of these collisions. 

MANAS will record the time, positional coordinates of the collisions and the quantum of energy produced. These are vital information that will aid the experiment and will be stored in the chip. Scientists will later access the data and analyze them to arrive at conclusions,” explained Sen. 

As many as 80,000 of such MANAS chips are being used and each of these MANAS chips have been mounted on muon detectors. The Muon Detectors too have been designed by the Indian Scientists at the SINP in Calcutta (now Kolkata) as well.

Each MANAS has 16 channels and can store a huge volume of data. 

The duo, Sen and Sarkar who comprised this vital two member team had relentlessly worked very hard to develop this extremely powerful and important microchip, the MANAS, for 11 years. They were able to successfully develop the first prototype of the MANAS chip in 1997.

Though Sen and Sarkar were apprehensive about the outcome of their joint efforts, however the MANAS chip was able to finally pass the rigorous tests carried out at CERN and finally the CERN Scientists gave their approval much to their joy.  

 “The first prototype was successful though we had to improve upon it. It took us about three years to fine-tune the technology and arrive at a perfect model. Eventually, the third prototype was the final one and its was put to test in 2000-01,” said Sen. The tests were supervised by a team from CERN that approved the chip. 

Measuring 4 mm by 7 mm, MANAS is a wonder chip. It can record data at an astronomical speed, quite literally, and even alters the shape of the voltage to facilitate the recording.

“The challenge for us was to make sure that the change in shape didn’t alter the voltage energy. We had to take a series of precautions for that and wrack our brains for months on end. Eventually, we managed to crack the riddle,” said Sen. 

MANAS was accepted for the Big Bang experiment ahead of its competitors from various other countries.

It went into production at the Semi-Conductor Laboratory, Chandigarh in 2003.

“The chip has been conceived and produced entirely in India. Sarkar and Sen have done a wonderful job and we have reason to feel proud of it,” said Dr Bikash Sinha, director of SINP

"The chip will not only aid the experiment. It might also have a role to play in software development. Due to its high-speed and huge recording capacity, it is bound to have a software application. “It could definitely be used in computers. Our experiment will have an even bigger impact once that happens,” said Sen.

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