India-based Neutrino Observatory

ICAL detector comprises of three modules, each made up of 150 layers of 56mm thick iron plates and covering a lateral area of 16m × 16m. Interleaved between these layers are Resistive Plate Chamber (RPC) based active detector layers. About 30,000 RPCs of 1.84m × 1.84m in area will be deployed by ICAL. RPC produces signals on 128 (64 each on orthogonal planes), 3-cm wide metallic strips. The RPC signal is approximately of a triangular shape with rise and fall times of about 2ns and about 2mV in amplitude across a 50 load. About 3.6 million electronic channels need to be instrumented in ICAL.

RPC produces signals randomly due to surrounding background radiation. Rate of these signals is used to monitor stability of the RPC detectors. It also produces similar signals when hit by charged particles, which are part of a physics event. Role of the ICAL DAQ system is to generate a trigger signal for ‘interesting’ physics events, record pattern of the RPC strips hit by the particles as well as precise time of traversing through them. The DAQ is also expected to perform a number of slow control and monitoring functions.

RPC is designated as a standalone minimum unit for the purpose of electronics and DAQ system as well. As per this scheme, preamplifier and leading edge discriminators are mounted on two orthogonal edges of the RPC unit and also rest of common processing electronics (called RPC-DAQ) is mounted on top surface of the RPC unit. RPC-DAQ comprises of several functional blocks such as a Time-to-Digital Converter (TDC), Waveform sampler, Strip-hit latch and rate monitor, Pre-trigger front-end, ambient parameter monitor, Pulse width monitor and Front-end control. A processor, equipped with an optical data link is also part of this electronics on an RPC unit. The processor takes care of all the DAQ needs, configuration of the front-end components as well as data transfer operations between the RPC unit and backend servers.

The detector module is segmented appropriately for the purpose of implementing the trigger system. Pre-trigger signals generated on the RPC units within a segment are processed in the segment trigger stations before sending them to the trigger backend. The trigger backend generates and fans-out the final trigger and global clock etc. DAQ backend servers powered by VME crates receive event and monitor data from the RPC-DAQ modules and archive the same besides providing all the DAQ services and user interfaces. The backend requires considerable software development efforts. Data acquisition, event building, event display, quick data quality monitors and data archival are just some of these areas.

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