Benefits to Australia of the MNRF Project
Astronomy is one of the fields in which Australia has maintained a high international reputation. The ATNF Upgrade, scheduled for completion in 2002, means that the Australia Telescope Compact Array will be the first operational Southern-Hemisphere mm-wave aperture synthesis telescope. This will ensure that the Australia Telescope National Facility will retain its status as a world-class national radio astronomy facility, and its leadership role in radio astronomy in the Asia-Pacific region. Australian scientists can then remain at the forefront in studies of the universe, and can become key players in space radio astronomy. Importantly, the project will also provide outstanding facilities for showcasing Australian technology, and will enable the ATNF to continue its commitment to supporting industry through innovation, design, training and technology transfer.
The design and production of the state-of-the-art amplifiers for the 3mm receivers using MMIC technology involves leading-edge electromagnetic and fabrication research. Such research is strategic for other future applications of MMIC technology, such as broadband mobile telecommunications. Australian expertise at the CSIRO Division of Telecommunications and Industrial Physics is being exploited here. The ATNF expects to obtain a contract with Australian industry to produce these systems, and to provide prototypes and engineers able to transfer to industry expertise in short-wavelength technology, a rapidly expanding field in telecommunications.
During the construction of the Australia Telescope National Facility the Receiver Group at the ATNF in CSIRO further enhanced its reputation as a world leader in specialist receiver construction. The outstanding reputation of the group is demonstrated by the fact that they have since built and sold astronomical receivers for Japanese and Chinese astronomical organisations. They are continuing to develop innovative instrumentation associated with the construction of the 12-mm receivers and so are maintaining their, and thus Australia's, reputation as world-leaders in innovative engineering. The development of the new receivers will enable CSIRO engineering and scientific staff to continue to transfer state-of-the-art technology in the microwave, RF and IF fields to Australian industry. As construction of the Australia Telescope has already demonstrated, the experitse continuing to be developed at ATNF will place our industrial partners at a distinct competitive advantage.
Atmospheric phase correction is a topical area of radio science, promising to allow imaging by the putative next-generation Chilean millimetre-wave arrays at frequencies approaching 1 THz (1000 GHz). There has been considerable international pressure to develop a viable mm-wave phase correction scheme for the new and proposed sub-mm interferometers around the world. Scientists and engineers from the ATNF have been involved in several international collaborations, including one charged with the development of calibration strategies for the new arrays. Such collaborations help to maintian Australia's position as a world-leader in radio astronomy and lead to fruitful exchanges of ideas and new technologies of benefit to all parties in the collaboration. Some of the MNRF Program funding is to investigate the feasibility of a large 1-km diameter radio telescope to be built in Australia in the 21st century. The expertise being gained at the ATNF in astmospheric phase correction will be invaluable in assessing the feasibility of such an array.