Newton RCUK-CONACYT MUSCAT - a new technology large-format camera for the Large Millimeter Telescope

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: School of Physics and Astronomy

Abstract

The scientific potential of any telescope, and the opportunity to make important new discoveries, is based not only the size of the primary mirror or the reflecting surface, but also on the performance of its scientific instruments. The Large Millimeter Telescope (LMT) is the world's largest telescope, with a diameter of 50-m, designed to operate at a wavelength of 1mm. The LMT has recently started scientific operations on the summit of Volcan Sierra Negra at an altitude of 4600m, in central Mexico. The LMT is Mexico's largest scientific project, however, in order to maintain its unique position in world astronomy in the future, the and effort made in the construction of this world-class facility must now be matched with an equally ambitious instrumentation development program to support the scientific objectives of the LMT.

The RCUK-CONACYT Research Partnership offers an exciting new opportunity to build a sustainable scientific collaboration between students and researchers in the UK and Mexico. This will result in a significant contribution to the development of the LMT scientific user-community in Mexico, and to the creation of an independent capability in Mexico to design and fabricate new-technology detectors operating at (sub-)mm (THz) wavelengths with applications both in astronomy and other areas of science and industry. This proposal will fund the construction of MUSCAT (Mexico-UK Sub-mm Camera for Astronomy), a next-generation large-format camera for the LMT, as a collaborative project between the University of Cardiff and the Instituto Nacional de Astrofisica y Electronica. This state-of-the-art instrument will exploit the previous Mexican investment in the construction and operation of the Large Millimeter Telescope, and enable this new scientific infrastructure to conduct high-impact "Big Science" which will serve as an inspiration towards the formation of new generations of scientists, technicians and engineers in Mexico.

Our research partnership will transfer and exchange a wealth of scientific knowledge and experience in (sub-)mm astronomy between the UK and Mexico through a joint scientific-program that we hope to expand in the future beyond the completion of the RCUK-CONACYT Research Partnership. An element of this "Big Science" program will address fundamental questions related to the formation and evolution of structure over the full history of the Universe that are central to the LMT, as well as the ground-based James Clerk Maxwell sub-mm telescope and the satellite-borne SPIRE camera on the Herschel telescope. The data-products and research papers that will result from the combination of MUSCAT observations on the LMT with the archival data from the JCMT and Herschel will enhance the legacy-value of both the latter facilities and provide a greater scientific-return on the UK investment in these two transformative telescopes.

The RCUK-CONACYT project will also transfer skills and expertise in THz technologies and instrumentation that currently does not exist in Mexico. With a wide range of commercial applications in industry and applied sciences, this technology transfer from the UK to Mexico can enable long-term economic development and provide additional social benefits in priority sectors of the CONACYT strategic special programme for science, technology and innovation such as health, telecommunications, space-sciences, and national security.

Planned Impact

This RCUK-CONACYT project is based around a scientific collaboration and technological transfer between Cardiff University, and the Instituto Nacional de Astrofisica, Optica y Electronica (INAOE) to
build a state-of-the-art mm-wavelength camera, MUSCAT, for the 50-m Large Millimeter Telescope (LMT) in Mexico capable of delivering unique world-class scientific observations and to support the growth of future sustainable Mexican and UK collaborations.

The non-academic beneficiaries of this project include industry, businesses and commercial enterprises, education sectors and the wider society in both Mexico and the UK. Given the technology transfer is principally in the direction of the UK to Mexico, the non-academic beneficiaries in the industrial and business sectors are more likely to be in Mexico.

At the conclusion of this project, Mexico will have acquired from the UK, through a programme of Technology Transfer, an independent capability (that did not previously exist) to develop THz instrumentation and to compete internationally in sub-mm and THz research within science and industry. Technology at THz frequencies has important and high-impact applications across many priority areas of science and industry, e.g. health, national security, space sciences and telecommunications, for both the UK and Mexico governments.

The transfer of this expertise from the UK can enable long-term economic development and social benefits in Mexico. For example at THz frequencies many materials are transparent (e.g. packaging, clothes) which means that THz imaging has become a rapidly expanding field in the areas of non-destructive testing, biomedical sensing and security screening. Although it is beyond the scope of this RCUK-CONAYCT project, a long-term benefit of acquiring these THz detector technologies is the potential for Mexican commercial and industrial development of spectrometers and passive imaging (cameras) with applications in the priority sectors of national security (e.g. video-rate body-screening at airports, stadiums or large public events that require security checks; postal packaging checks and chemical (explosive, drug) analysis) and in medicine (e.g. non-invasive imaging to conduct screening for early stage cancers, ex-vivo biopsies, and dental screening and diagnosis, and THz spectroscopy for blood analysis). These are just a few clear examples of benefits to the UK and Mexico societies that result from this technology transfer program.

The LMT is Mexico's largest scientific project, and therefore this scientific infrastructure attracts a high-level of attention from the government, science community, media, education sector and the general public. The impact of the LMT "Big Science" scientific program that addresses fundamental questions about the nature of the Universe we live in - its formation history and evolution - will be enhanced through the technological development and construction of the MUSCAT camera. Hence the LMT and MUSCAT will be used to inspire and attract an increasing number of students to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. This will lead to the formation of more scientists, engineers and technicians with transferable skills that can address a wide range of priorities (health, climate, sustainable energy, ... ) and social needs in both Mexico and UK.

Increasing interest in the value of science at the earliest education stages (e.g. the example of the LMT in Mexico) will have a further impact and positive contribution to the economic growth and wealth of Mexico and the UK, given the close link between the strength of an economy and development of the scientific and engineering community through technology and innovation. This in turn will demand the creation of more jobs in industry, business and the general science community, leading to greater social mobility and the wider benefits that this delivers.

Publications

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Brien T (2018) A Continuous 100-mK Helium-Light Cooling System for MUSCAT on the LMT in Journal of Low Temperature Physics

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Castillo-Dominguez E (2018) Mexico-UK Sub-millimeter Camera for Astronomy in Journal of Low Temperature Physics

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Chase S (2019) Pre-cooling a 3 He/ 4 He dilutor module with a sealed closed-cycle continuous cooler in IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering

 
Description Chase Cryogenics 
Organisation Chase Research Cryogenics Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The MUSCAT research team are working with Chase Cryogenics to develop a continuous version of a mini dilution refrigerator system for use in the Muscat instrument. This system is the first of its kind and provides a cost effective solution to reaching cryogenic temperatures continuously. The partnership with Chase Cryogenic Research has extended beyond that originally proposed to address the challenges the MUSCAT project presented. The partnership has benefited both the UK industrial partner and our Mexican research partner by furthering cryogenic technology and providing a state-of-the-art cryogenic platform in Mexico on the Large Millimeter Telescope MUSCAT staff have provided effort in testing these systems under real conditions and providing feedback to Chase Cryogenic Research to optimise the design.
Collaborator Contribution Our partner is providing cryogenic hardware and gasses along with man power to develop the dilution units.
Impact A cryogenic system has been developed and has generated international interest in this as a new product for Chase Cryogenic Research. Proving this technology on a real instrument has provided recognition for both the Mexican and UK teams. The hardware provided at a heavily discounted price has provided Mexico with a valuable experimental resource.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Chicago 
Organisation University of Chicago
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Our research team have worked with collaborators at the University of Chicago to develop Kinetic Inductance Detector Array technology. We have tested devices and shared information to aid the refinement of the fabrication process.
Collaborator Contribution Our collaborators at Chicago have provided detector arrays for the MUSCAT project as well as sharing information regarding the fabrication process to both the UK and Mexican researchers.
Impact Science grade detector arrays for the MUSCAT instrument. This work has also supported future collaborations with this partner for both the UK and Mexico. These are taking the form of UK And Mexican involvement in a US led instrument being deployed.
Start Year 2017
 
Description INAOE 
Organisation National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics
Country Mexico 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The collaboration between the Cardiff Astronomy Instrumentation group (AIG) and INAOE is to build, install and perform science with the MUSCAT instrument. The AIG is providing expertise and man power to design and build the instrument. Both groups will participate in a science programme with MUSCAT installed on the Large Millimetre Telescope (LMT).
Collaborator Contribution INAOE are providing the majority of the hardware costs and providing man-power to the instrument build and knowledge transfer programme. INAOE are also providing expertise on the LMT site and facilities.
Impact This collaboration has resulted in a formal commitment to build UK-Mexico instrumentation for the LMT.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Mecanica Industrial Andrade - MUSCAT optics and horns 
Organisation Mecanica Industrial Andrade
Country Mexico 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The MUSCAT project has worked in partnership with Mecanica Industrial Andrade to produce the warm optics for the MUSCAT instrument and feed horn blocks for test arrays. The MUSCAT team have provided information on critical tolerances, materials and experience in machining similar parts.
Collaborator Contribution Mecanica Industrial Andrade have provided information and advice on machining methods we could use to produce these parts. Specifically Mecanica Industrial Andrade provided advice on machining light weighting features while maintain the mirror profile over large areas.
Impact This partnership has resulted in the production of the MUSCAT cold optics currently being tested. This company has proved to be a cost effective supplier that could provide similar components on other national and international projects benefiting the Mexican economy.
Start Year 2018
 
Description QMCi Ltd 
Organisation QMC Instruments Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The research team has been working with this partner to develop bespoke sub-K cooler control and thermometry systems.
Collaborator Contribution Our partner has provided hardware to this collaboration.
Impact This partnership has created the key output of developing a bespoke sub-K cooler control and thermometry systems. This system is now fully operational on the MUSCAT instrument and can be exploited commercially by QMCi in the future and has provided Mexico with a valuable experimental resource.
Start Year 2017
 
Title Astronomical Camera 
Description The project has now completed the build and testing of an Astronomical camera - MUSCAT that will be donated to Mexico for astronomical observations and a means to form the basis of future collaborative work between the UK and other international partners. The camera has intentionally been made to be adaptable to future applications to maximise its potential. In its current state, the camera will serve as a Mexican instrument on the LMT capable of exploring new astronomy, leading to collaborative work between the UK and other international partners. The optics of this camera have also been designed so that they can be shared with other instruments from future potential collaborators, again providing new opportunities in the Mexican research community. 
Type Of Technology Systems, Materials & Instrumental Engineering 
Year Produced 2020 
Impact Key hardware donated to our Mexican collaborators providing the capability to perform new astronomy and promoting the research careers of both Mexican and UK scientists. The hardware also provides a versatile platform for future collaborative work with a range of international groups working in this area . 
URL http://muscat.astro.cf.ac.uk
 
Description Invited talk at Cardiff Astronomy Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Overview and status update of the MUSCAT instrument to potential users.Promoting the project to potential users and and supporting collaborative work with our ODA partner in Mexico. Talk presented in Cardiff, UK. Three DAC county members present during presentation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Invited talk on the detector development for the MUSCAT instrument. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation of MUSCAT detector design sharing ideas and results with wider international community, discussion of relevant physics and promotion of the MUSCAT instrument on the International stage. Work presented in Dublin, Ireland. No DAC country members present during presentation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description MUSCAT presented at Astronomical Instrument Development Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The MUSCAT project was presented to highlight the new collaboration between the UK and Mexico and to advertise the unique capabilities of the UK and Mexican research groups involved within this collaboration.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description MUSCAT presented at SPIE 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A talk given at the SPIE meeting on the MUSCAT project. The purpose was to promote the project and raise the profile of our project partners - The National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics (INAOE). Talk presented in Texas, USA. Three DAC county members present.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.spiedigitallibrary.org/conference-proceedings-of-spie/10708/2313697/MUSCAT-the-Mexico-UK...
 
Description MUSCAT presented at the JCMT futures meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The purpose of this activity was to engage the UK-Mexican MUSCAT project with the wider international community and to look for potential future collaborations that could extend the project develop it further. In this instance, we engaged with a large telescope based in Hawaii as a potential host of the MUSCAT camera that could forge new relationships between Mexico-UK and the East Asian Observatory (EAO) who operate this facility.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.eaobservatory.org/jcmt/science/futures-2019/