Design of a dynamic reconfigurable virtual instrumentationplatform based on a field programmable gate array (FPGA)

The desire to conduct research and development using experimental tools and/or instruments in data gathering and analysis, data representation, amongst others cannot be over emphasized. However, scientists and engineers, particularly those in developing countries, cannot take full advantage of the availability of research equipment offered by the market due to the high cost of commercial instruments and in some cases un-repairable equipment. By using programmable logic devices, it is possible to emulate standard general purpose instruments. By using a hierarchical block-based methodology in the design and implementation of the dynamic reconfigurable instrument platform it has been shown that FPGAs can be used to emulate electronic and scientific instrumentation. Compared to software based VIs, it does not depend on the processing power of a PC and the design files (in VHDL) can be deployed using various vendor software and hardware with ease and is backward compatible. This work adopts a compile time reconfiguration to achieve a reconfigurable system whiles the fixed or permanent system, though re-programmable, remains permanent throughout the lifetime of the system. The key limitations to this design are in the operational range (example in the digital frequency meter), limited accuracy, and operating frequency. Stemming from the fact that a lot of team effort is required in EDA environment, much testing and comparative evaluation of the presented instruments against existing/standard instruments and software based VIs was not conducted. A computer software was also not developed. The DRI platform can be a low cost solution/alternative approximately $187.57 in cost estimate. Admittedly, we have not factored the man hours, development tools, or open source intellectual property costs into the estimate because this work was done in an academic environment.
A thesis submitted to the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering , Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in partial fulfilment of the requirements of of Master of Science degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering