2023-2024 / SPAT0015-1

Signal acquisition and processing : application to embedded systems


10h Th, 30h Pr

Number of credits

 Master in space sciences (120 ECTS) (Even years, not organized in 2023-2024) 4 crédits 


Christian Servais

Language(s) of instruction

French language

Organisation and examination

Teaching in the second semester


Schedule online

Units courses prerequisite and corequisite

Prerequisite or corequisite units are presented within each program

Learning unit contents

Embedded systems are usually electromechanical systems able to perform autonomous tasks. Such systems are very important economically when human supervision must be reduced but also when human presence is impossible because of the location of the system (space, underwater, high altitude, volcanoes, etc...)

Learning outcomes of the learning unit

This course will first improve the knowledge of the students in the domain of programmable electronics. We will then see the basics of real-time digital signal processing (DSP) and use specialized computer programs and demonstration boards to implement embedded systems. We will finally focus on movement control, transducer data acquisition, hardware digital signal processing, data transmission and, finally, embedded systems incorporating microprocessors implemented with Field Programmable Logic chips.

Prerequisite knowledge and skills

- The "data processing" course PHYS0931 or equivalent

- The "Experimental Physics : electronics and instrumentation" course PHYS0905 or equivalent.

Planned learning activities and teaching methods

  • Programmable electronics: general notions, Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs)
  • Hardware Description Languages (HDL), VHDL language, behavioral/RTL/physical circuit models, logical simulation. Application to simple logic systems implemented in FPGAs, ISE/Modelsim and Chipscope programs.
  • Embedded systems - Definition, specificity, usage, examples
  • Theoretical complements in the domain of DSP, physical implementation models. Application to the control of stepping motors in half-step mode.
  • DSP hardware, IP's (Intellectual Property modules) and development tools, DSP function generators, Coregen program. Application to the stepping motor using acceleration ramps and the microstepping mode, direct digital synthesis (DDS).
  • Physical implementation of acquisition and data processing systems, ADC/DAC converters, simulation of DSP systems using Matlab and Simulink, real-time digital filtering, undersampling, application to audio processing and spectrum analysis.
  • Data coding, serializers/deserializers, AC/DC coupling, synchronization, error detection. Application to coaxial cable and fiber optics data transmission.
  • Amplitude/phase/I-Q modulation, examples (ADSL, Ethernet, FM...). Application to wireless data transmission between an embedded system and a PC.
  • Embedded processors implemented using FPGA resources. Application to the control of a simple robot using embedded CPU and DSP, wireless command transmission from a remote PC.

Mode of delivery (face to face, distance learning, hybrid learning)

Face-to-face course

Additional information:

Theoretical course: 2h lectures given - as much as possible - immediately before the workshops or intermixed.

Workshops : Practical work on PC and FPGA systems. The students learn how to design logic circuits, simulate them and implement them in FPGAs. 2h application labs solving practical DSP, remote communication or control problems.

This course is ideally addressed to a small group of students (typ. 3-4). This enables the access to a more interesting project via the splitting of different project functions between them. This also enables to develop the mandatory collaborative aspect of the realization of a professional size project.

Recommended or required readings

  • Reference books in the domain of Digital Signal/Information Processing
  • Manuals of the computer tools used in the design of embedded systems
  • Copy of the viewgraphs used during the course.

Two problems closely related the ones seen during the course will have to be solved on a computer + development board system. This practical work will be followed by a discussion about the results of the exercise and the underlying theory.
True understanding of the underlying principles will be more important than the knowledge of minor details that may be problem-specific.

Work placement(s)

Organisational remarks and main changes to the course

For easy training with the software used during the workshops, it is strongly recommended to have access to a relatively recent PC. The software manuals are written in a medium-level technical english.
  This course is given every other year, i.e. during the academic years that start on an even civil year.
Each course session is divided between a first theoretical part followed immediately by either laboratory demonstrations or laboratory experiments. This course is therefore strongly oriented towards presential lessons and is not recommended in these pandemic times.


Dr. Christian Servais

Institute of Astrophysics, Geophysics and Oceanography
Allée du 6 Aout, 17, B5a building , room R/2
B-4000 Liege (Sart Tilman) Belgium
Phone : +32 4 366 97 84 (Lab: 366 97 67)
Fax : + 32 4 366 97 47

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