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Nanovolt design challenge - build and show your own nV-meter in 256 days [DONE]

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What is this Nanovolt Challenge?

Welcome to this friendly competition dedicated to building some nanovolt-grade hardware and analog designs! This public challenge dedicated for making your own open-source DC Voltage measurement device. Main audience is the electronic design engineers and metrology scientists, who have practical interests in performing very low level DC Voltage signal measurements (microvolt level and below).

Main goal of this contest is to show practical benefits of proposed nanovolt-capable design, not just theoretical possibility of such. There are many new ideas for low-level DC voltage measurements available with modern electronics and advance in digital and analog circuit designs, but very few are actually publicly discussed or demonstrated. This contest main goal is to promote such ideas and show openly what can be achieved in practical accomplished device.  :-/O

Challenge terms and rules

For international metrology community benefits it was decided that each project must comply with next conditions:

* Each submission entry must be based on actual physical design prototype and include design, measurement results and proof of operation.
* Submissions must be completed in 256 days term between September 2, 2021 23:59 EST and May 16, 2022 23:59 EST.
* All design information, including schematics, PCB files (not only Gerbers), libraries, simulation files and source code/firmware files must be publicly available under free to reuse license.
* Wiki or work log write-up about the project (at least 2000 words) with permission to publish it on xDevs.com site.
* There is no budget or component selection limit, as far as previous conditions about public design information is met.
* All designs must come with some sort of verification and performance results data. Noise, gain accuracy, thermal stability (+18 to +28 °C) and linearity parameters data is expected.
* Must not violate any commercial IP or 3rd-party license(s) (e.g. reverse-engineered commercial nano-voltmeter is not OK).
* All submissions must be written in English language.

Bonus point – if you were already working on nanovolt-related project before September 2, 2021, you can reuse any existing hardware, software or firmware and knowledge acquired, given that it should be published within submission entry and released for public as result.

Criteria for project relevance for acceptance

Proposed design must include hardware and software/firmware related to functionality of the unit. Additional calibration and used testing fixtures information is not required but very welcome. To focus design around somewhat common goal each of the nanovolt device entry should be able to perform next functionality to be accepted:

* Have local onboard power regulation. Single common DC (+9 to +24 VDC) or 110/220VAC mains input jack is expected.
* Provide DC Voltage measurement ranges ±100 µV or below and include ±1V and ±10VDC range.
* Have at least two user-accessible input channels for signal to be measured.
* Have low-thermal connection interface to minimize thermal EMF parasitic errors.
* Provide at least 5½-digit resolution for each reading.
* Ability to digitize input DC signal with resolution at least 10 nV and noise better than 30 nV peak to peak over at least 0.1-10 Hz bandwidth.
* Have autozero functionality to correct for static offsets.
* Have galvanic isolated analog front end, with isolation resistance to earth/chassis better than 10 GΩ.
* Device should have ADC (any type) integrated.
* Have good long-term stability and use ovenized DC voltage reference (LM399, LTZ1000 or LTFLU with oven).
* Provide RJ45 Ethernet and/or IEEE-488 GPIB interface for communications with external world / external equipment.
* 40W total input power budget (friendly to battery operation for sensitive experiments)
* Device should be fully operational as standalone device (e.g. no debuggers or external equipment attached to make it work).

Everything else is up to designers, no other limitations or restrictions. References with voodoo-slots, multi-layer PCBs, fancy OLED displays, Raspberry Pi controllers, gold-plated Titanium enclosures – all is welcome.

Compensation for winning project

Since reaching goals of the project are not easy nor simple additional motivation is provided for the best design award.

* Special version of xDevs.com QVR-A module with four of brand new Analog Devices ADR1000 ultra-low noise references.
* Calibration of QVR-A module on Josephson Junction Voltage Quantum Standard (once) with uncertainty below 0.1 ppm.

Reference will be packaged in custom rugged aluminum enclosure with low-thermal connectors and protected in hard-case shipping container.

Shipping cost of the QVR-A and JVS calibration will be covered by xDevs.com. Projects will be judged and carefully reviewed after challenge reach the deadline cutout. Final results and ranking will be provided on this page no later than June 16, 2022 23:59 EST. Reference and calibration will be shipped to winner no later than July 31, 2022.

Additional items and prizes might be added in future.

Full details about this challenge contest provided here. Instructions for project submissions are there as well.

Discussion and feedback also can be done in this thread.

Make a Keithley 181 analog in 256 days.

This is a serious challenge...

The Keithley 181 would fail the criteria. Not sure it could measure at a speed to cover the 0.1 to 10 Hz range. This kind of needs at least some 20 readings per second, to really cover it more like 30 or 50 readings per second. Because of mains hum one would kind of need integration over full mains periods. So this would mean using 1 PLC, maybe 2 PLC with no time lost to AZ.
The point noise is a difficult one if it is meant as 30 nV_pp for 0.1 to 10 Hz BW, and not as allowing to measure 0.1 to 10 Hz BW and get the 30 nV_pp noise level at a lower speed.

With "only" the 5.5 digit range, I see no real need for a oven stabilized reference though. It is still easy if the LM399 is available.


--- Quote from: TiN on September 03, 2021, 06:18:06 am ---* All design information, including schematics, PCB files (not only Gerbers), libraries, simulation files and source code/firmware files must be publicly available under free to reuse license.

--- End quote ---

Do you mean a open source hardware license that allows free commercial use?

Are the participants going to see a company making and selling their exact design a year later  :-//

I'm not criticizing this, it's just important people know from the start.
It's pretty disheartening when you spend a year of your free time making something awesome for the community
and the next year your product is being sold in the 1000's with a high price tag by some company.

To be clear, this is a cool competition/design challenge and I'm 100% for it, it just need to be transparent on this issue.

Thank you Tin for this challenge!

Wouldn't be great if someone provides for free something that is a hit (both technically and economically)?

Wonder if this open contest could translate into colleagues trying to contribute ideas to make something great that could not be possible if each one individually try to beat each other.

Unfortunately, I am not able to contribute any special skill into this task. So I will be just happy to watch how this develops ...

The terms and rules states that ALL must be publicly available, with granted permission to xDevs to publish it. This means to me that it is completely open. Anyone could make the device too, not just one company.

Success would mean that the next year the evil auction site will have tens of sellers selling the PCBs or assembled boards to make our own nanovoltmeter for less than the price of AoE book.

It's not the winning, it's the taking part. So they say!


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