The Xilinx FPGA System on Chip in high-speed data acquisition devices

Electrical spikes are sudden power increases that only last a few milliseconds or even hundreds of microseconds, but they can cause great damages to electric train and railway signalization equipment. In the best-case scenario, electrical spikes can reset parameters on electrical equipment, while in the worst of cases, they can destroy electrical components or cause a fire. 

In the transportation industry, knowing what occurs during those few milliseconds can make the difference. Once the electrical engineers analyze and understand the phenomena, they can make adjustments to the design of the electric trains and the railway infrastructure to avoid the damages caused by the electrical spikes.  

The poor power quality is also a potential cause of complications. Different voltage fluctuations, like voltage dips and swells along with short power outages, can influence the performance of the equipment. When the train manufacturer learns what happens during power quality events, they can make the necessary improvements to the train’s electrical power system.   

The Xilinx FPGA System on Chip in high-speed data acquisition devices  

The Xilinx FPGA is used for the detection of anomalies. The acquired high-speed data enable rail electrical engineers to analyze the circumstances during electrical spikes and different power quality events.  

Its advantages are:   

  • Flexibility
    The Xilinx FPGA can sample both high-speed signals (at 1GS/s), and also low-speed signals at few hundreds of samples per second for monitoring voltages and currents at mains frequency (50/60 Hz).
  • Shared memory
    Using the Zync family allows data processing in the FPGA part and sharing the data to the ARM core, enabling the data to be further processed and transmitted wirelessly via LTE or WiFi. 

Modular Building Blocks for high-speed data acquisition 

Measuring phenomena like electrical spikes is a fundamental step in understanding their impact on electrically interconnected equipment. The solution for these main obstacles can be supplied by the modular Building Blocks data acquisition system, developed by Instrumentation Technologies.  

The robust and validated design provides a series of standardized, tested, and certified bricks to build a customized data acquisition system. In the case of the railway transportation industry, the Building Blocks can be used to create a condition monitoring system to watch over countless power inverters.

The basic layout of the Building Blocks system consists of a Basic Unit, a data acquisition (DAQ) Unit, a Communication Unit, and a Backplane Unit, with no real limit to the number of input signals.  

Triggering the sampling when required is another important aspect of DAQ and data size management. This avoids unnecessarily big data files with irrelevant information, bringing along a waste of processing and analysis time. According to the specific needs, sampling can be triggered on a time basis, but also by events, using single thresholds or a set of conditions. Pre-trigger delays can be separately configured as well.  

Multiple interfaces send the information to the station where final analysis is performed, either in real-time or at a later stage. The robust standard software guarantees flexibility and user-friendliness during this task to allow in-depth analysis of fast transients, as well as long-term monitoring of slow phenomena, to enhance predictive failure recognition. 

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