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field-programmable gate array

(type of customizable digital electronic circuit)

A field-programmable gate array (FPGA) is a type of digital electronic circuit (invariably a chip) designed to be customized to carry out a specific calculation. It provides a means of creating circuits that can process a stream of data more rapidly than a computer could, yet can be developed more quickly and cheaply than designing a chip from scratch for the specific task. The FPGA is manufactured with all the transistors (gates) in place, along with a means of adjusting the connections between the transistors, generally by feeding a specially prepared signal into a chip input designed for that purpose, i.e., the "programming". The circuit particulars and the necessary programming signal is designed using software for the purpose on a computer, then fed into the FPGA. FPGAs are an option for incorporation in astronomical instruments that handle a considerable stream of digital data, such as processing digitized radio signals.

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