TecKnow of the day

Space is a tough environment for electronics. A burst of radiation from a solar flare can damage a satellite’s delicate circuits and knock years off its working life. Now research by University of California, is pointing the way to more radiation-resistant microchips.AnneVandooren, a graduate student in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, studied how heat, gamma rays, X-rays and proton irradiation affect microchips built with silicon-on-oxide (SOI) technology. SOI chips are used for low-power applications such as cell phones, pagers and personal organizers.
Radiation damages microchips by creating electrical charges in the insulation between transistors, said engineering professor Jean-Pierre Colinge, who supervised the project. His laboratory has previously developed ways to build SOI microchips where transistors are in less contact with insulation.
During her research, Vandooren was able to develop a general model of how radiation affects analog circuits. Analog circuits allow digital systems to connect to the real, analog world, Colinge said.
“If we expose circuits to a level of radiation, we know what to expect,” said Colinge. This meant that they could design entire systems that were more resistant to radiation damage, he said.

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