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Low-Noise Amplifiers (LNAs) and the Rise of Cryogenic Technology in India

By KNS Rao

Former Project Director, IRNSS, ISRO

low noise amplifier

In the world of electronics, getting clear signals is crucial for many applications. This is where low-noise amplifiers (LNAs) come in. LNAs boost weak radio signals (RF) while adding minimal noise, keeping the information accurate. But for projects that need to detect incredibly faint signals, regular LNAs aren’t strong enough. Enter cryogenic LNAs, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.

Understanding Low-Noise Amplifiers (LNAs)

LNAs are essential parts of many electronic systems, especially those that deal with weak RF signals. Their job is to amplify these faint signals to usable levels while adding as little extra noise as possible. This amplification is important for things like:

● Picking up weak signals from faraway radio sources
● Improving radio communication systems
● Making measurement equipment more sensitive

The problem is that all amplifiers add some noise along with the wanted signal boost. This extra noise can hide the weak signal you’re interested in, making the whole system less effective. LNAs are different. They’re specifically designed to minimize this extra noise, keeping the boosted signal clean.

The Power of Cryogenic LNAs

Standard LNAs work well, but they have limitations in how little noise they can add. If projects are required to detect even weaker signals and receive signals with ultra-low noise, traditional LNAs will struggle to keep up. This is where cryogenic LNAs take over.

Cryogenic LNAs operate at extremely cold temperatures, typically in the range of -200°C to -269°C (-328°F to -452°F). This icy environment significantly reduces the amount of thermal noise generated inside the amplifier itself. Thermal noise is a basic limitation in electronics caused by the random movement of electrons due to heat. By making things super cold, cryogenic LNAs effectively minimize this internal noise source, resulting in much better noise performance compared to LNAs that operate at room temperature.

The exceptional noise performance of cryogenic LNAs opens doors for exciting possibilities in various scientific and technological applications, especially those that require detecting and amplifying incredibly weak signals.

Let’s explore three key areas where cryogenic LNAs hold immense potential for projects in India:

1. Radio Astronomy: Peering Deeper into the Cosmos

India has a long history in radio astronomy, with organizations like the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) and the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) playing a leading role in exploring the universe’s secrets. Radio astronomy relies on detecting faint radio waves emitted by celestial objects like distant galaxies, pulsars, and quasars. These faint signals often get buried under cosmic background noise, making them very hard to detect.

Cryogenic LNAs offer a game-changing solution for radio astronomy projects in India. Their ultra-low noise figure allows radio telescopes to “see” fainter celestial objects with unmatched clarity. This improved sensitivity empowers astronomers to study the universe in more detail, investigating the formation and evolution of galaxies, the properties of pulsars, and the nature of dark matter and dark energy.

2. Quantum Computing: A New Era Dawns

Quantum computing promises to revolutionize computing by using the principles of quantum mechanics. Unlike traditional computers that rely on bits (0 or 1), quantum computers use qubits, which can exist in a superposition of both states simultaneously. This phenomenon allows for parallel processing capabilities far exceeding classical computers, potentially leading to breakthroughs in fields like materials science, drug discovery, and financial modeling.

However, controlling qubits is a delicate task. These quantum states are incredibly fragile and easily disrupted by noise, which can lead to errors and halt computations. Cryogenic LNAs play a vital role in reducing this noise challenge.

By operating at cryogenic temperatures, cryogenic LNAs significantly reduce thermal noise within the delicate quantum circuits. This minimized noise environment ensures the stability of qubits, allowing for more reliable and error-free quantum computations.

3. Satellite Communications: Bridging the Distance Across Space

India’s space ambitions are evident with the many numerous missions to explore the cosmos. Maintaining clear and reliable communication with these distant spacecraft is essential for mission success. However, as spacecraft venture further into deep space, the signal strength received weakens considerably. Here’s where cryogenic LNAs offer a valuable solution.

Cryogenic LNAs deployed in ground station receivers can significantly improve signal reception sensitivity. Their ultra-low noise figure allows for extracting faint signals from distant space probes, ensuring uninterrupted communication and real-time data transmission.

Project Considerations and Challenges

While cryogenic LNAs offer undeniable advantages, using them in projects requires careful consideration of several factors.

Cryogenic Infrastructure: Operating at extremely low temperatures necessitates a robust cryogenic infrastructure, including cryostats, refrigerators, and specialized handling equipment. This infrastructure adds complexity and cost to the project.

Technical Expertise: Integrating cryogenic LNAs into existing systems demands specialized expertise in cryogenic engineering and low-noise amplifier design. Project teams might need to develop this expertise in-house or collaborate with external partners.

Power Consumption: Cryogenic cooling systems typically consume significant amounts of power. Project managers need to factor in the operational costs associated with maintaining the ultra-low temperatures required for cryogenic LNAs.

The Future of Cryogenic LNAs in India

The potential applications of cryogenic LNAs in India are vast and hold immense promise for scientific discovery and technological advancement. As research and development efforts progress, we can expect to see cryogenic LNAs playing a more prominent role in projects undertaken by leading research organizations.

Here are some key trends to watch for:

Advancements in Cryogenic Technology: Developments in cryocooler technology and miniaturization of cryogenic systems could lead to more compact and cost-effective solutions, making cryogenic LNAs more accessible for a wider range of projects.

Integration with Existing Systems: Research focused on seamless integration of cryogenic LNAs with existing radio telescopes, quantum computing setups, and ground station infrastructure will be crucial for broader adoption.

Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing: Collaboration between research institutions, government agencies, and private companies can accelerate the development and deployment of cryogenic LNAs in India.

Globetek India has partnered with Low Noise Factory in Sweden to provide our customers in India with the state-of-the-art cryogenic LNAs. Our many offerings are listed on our website.


Cryogenic LNAs represent a cutting-edge technology with the potential to revolutionize various scientific and technological endeavors in India. Their exceptional noise performance offers a gateway to a new era of discovery in radio astronomy, quantum computing, and satellite communications. While challenges in infrastructure, expertise, and power consumption exist, ongoing advancements in cryogenic technology and collaborative efforts hold immense promise for the future of cryogenic LNAs in India’s journey towards scientific and technological leadership.

If you’re keen to use cryogenic LNAs for your ongoing or upcoming projects, we would love to hear from you. Besides procurement, we offer technical support, and expert advice to ensure you find the optimal low-noise amplification solution for your project needs. You can reach out to us here

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