New MCA

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Carl Willis
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New MCA

Post by Carl Willis » Sat Feb 14, 2009 8:18 am

I have just massively upgraded my pulse-height analysis equipment, thanks to some throwaway NIMs and some wonderful open-source software.

The new system comprises a Canberra 556 AIM module and a Canberra 9635 ADC (both single-width NIMs). These modules and their relatives from Canberra's proprietary-standard "ICB" NIM family are often on eBay or in other surplus quite inexpensively, and I'm guessing it is because people do not know how to use them or assume that the Canberra Genie(R) software is needed to operate them. Indeed this was my initial assessment of the package, but I'm not one to turn down good loot. It turns out that (A) the cabling needed to attach the ADC to the AIM is straightforward; (B) all you need to get the AIM connected to a PC via ethernet is a cheap IEEE 802.3 to 10-BASE-T transceiver; and the real kicker is that (C) there is FREE, OPEN-SOURCE SOFTWARE available to collect real-time data from Canberra AIM modules.

Let me just describe in briefest terms how the 9635 ADC stacks up against some other ADCs I have experienced in hobby settings. The conversion time is calculated for the photopeak of the spectrum shown, in hypothetical channel 1076 (provided the unit has enough memory). Conversion time is inversely proportional to the maximum count-rate the ADC can process.

ADC / MCA...........................Memory.........................Circuit...............Conversion time

Tracor-Northern 1705.............1023.....................50 MHz Wilkinson...........(20 us)
Canberra 35 Plus....................4096....................100 MHz Wilkinson..........10 us
SpecTech UCS30...................4096....................(Fixed-time ADC).............10 us
Canberra 9635........................8192....................(Fixed-time ADC).............0.9 us

Another way of looking at this is that the 35 Plus and Spectrum Techniques UCS30 would be able to beat the 9635 in count-rate capability only if the peak in question were placed below Channel 96 in those units.

The software I needed to put on my Windows computer was the following, all of it free:

-Cygwin/X (Linux emulator)
-IDL Virtual Machine
-Dr. Mark Rivers' "mca" binaries, here:
http://cars.uchicago.edu/software/pub/mcaPrebuilt.tgz
-EPICS binaries for Windows, here:
http://cars.uchicago.edu/software/pub/E ... naries.zip
-Dr. Mark Rivers' MCA GUI for IDL, here:
http://cars.uchicago.edu/software/pub/idl_mca.tar


I'll give a fuller set of instructions on my blog sometime soon. But for now I will say that I'm incredibly indebted to the hard work of Dr. Rivers and all the other contributors to this fine open-source software, especially the EPICS system. Setup could be a little hairy for some, but the end result is a real-time graphical interface to a top-quality MCA, for ultracheap. The pic just shows this software running, with a Cs-137 spectrum on a 2" NaI(Tl) detector with about 5% resolution.

-Carl
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Jon Rosenstiel
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Re: New MCA

Post by Jon Rosenstiel » Sat Feb 14, 2009 9:33 pm

Very nice Carl, thanks for the report.

Jon R
I like old-timey heavy electronics that you don't have to hold down
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Starfire
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Re: New MCA

Post by Starfire » Sat Feb 14, 2009 10:13 pm

A nice catch Carl - and in your hands this instrument will be tasked to peak performance. Good luck with the find.

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Richard Hull
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Re: New MCA

Post by Richard Hull » Mon Feb 16, 2009 9:21 pm

Very sweet! As my old pal and tesla coil buddy, Bill Richards would say... "nice stuff".
I know the pleasure of bringing stuff up from scratch and having it do well. You can be proud in addition to being gratified by your efforts.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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Carl Willis
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Re: New MCA

Post by Carl Willis » Mon Feb 16, 2009 9:31 pm

Hi Richard,

I think I saw a Canberra 8xxx series ADC in your NIM bin upstairs, and someone had written software to read its data via parallel port?

I'm almost certain that the AIM module I have is compatible with that model of ADC, among numerous others. Maybe keep your eyes peeled for an AIM unit, which will almost surely act as a much better buffer memory than the PC-via-parallel port.

-Carl
Carl Willis
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TEL: +1-505-412-3277

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Richard Hull
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Re: New MCA

Post by Richard Hull » Tue Feb 17, 2009 4:59 pm

Carl, I will keep my eyes peeled for the AIM unit.

I can't remember the number of the Canberra ADC in my bin right now. I thought it was an 875.

My pal Craig Brown wrote the software for the thing and it worked OK but not quite as well and my 35 system, which I still use. I am always ready to bo better, of course.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

David D Speck MD
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Re: New MCA

Post by David D Speck MD » Sun Mar 04, 2012 10:21 pm

Richard,

Could you provide links to Craig Brown's DOS software and hardware interface to the older style NIM ADC cards? I've had no luck finding the info, though I know I saw it in the past.

Thanks,

Dave Speck

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Steven Sesselmann
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Re: New MCA

Post by Steven Sesselmann » Sun Mar 04, 2012 10:48 pm

Carl,

What is the anomalous bump in the 32 kev x-ray?

Steven
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Larry Upjohn
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Re: New MCA

Post by Larry Upjohn » Mon Mar 05, 2012 11:20 pm

Carl;
I wanted ask how vital is the IDL virtual machine for using the rest of the MCA package. I seem to be blocked from downloading the IDL virtual machine from the home website.
I have an older Nuclear Data MCA that is already microprocessor controlled. The electronics contained there in is essentially the ND NIM cards with an old bit slice AMD chipset to collect, bin and transmit the data via an RS-232 port. I have the original DOS software however the media (3.5 floppy disks) have developed dropouts and the software no longer will install or run. I did archive to hard drive some time ago but that old DOS system died taking the hard drive with it. The MCA does respond to serial commands from TeleTerm emulator but some of the higher level analysis and plotting software is needed to make it pretty. This software you present in this thread appears as though I may be able to adapt it for my existing NIM stuff.
I have tried the PRA software with my existing sound cards and it does not have the refinement of the old ND system I am seeking to up grade. I know that this thread is somewhat older so hopefully this will not be inconvenient for follow up. More later, Larry Upjohn.
Larry Upjohn

David Housley
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Re: New MCA

Post by David Housley » Tue Mar 06, 2012 12:26 am

In my next life, I want to come back as Carl. He always sets the bar high for everyone to aspire to. Good job, Carl--I always relish your posts as prime meat in these forums. Thanks!

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