Today’s aerospace systems rely heavily on semiconductor technology to control, calculate, communicate, and drive various systems. However, the harsh environment of space and high-altitude flights rule out the use of most commercial-grade integrated circuits and power semiconductors. For high-altitude applications — heights of 25,000 ft to 100,000 ft — radiation-tolerant circuits can be used.
Such circuits are often specially tested versions of industrial/military-grade components that typically incorporate special packaging and coatings to protect them from alpha particles and other forms of mild radiation. The harsher space environment above 100,000 ft demands many more "tricks" to ensure the circuits work in the higher radiation environment. Radiation hardening tackles the challenge by modifying both the process used to manufacture the devices, and in many cases, changes to the circuitry, transistor structures, and system architecture to ensure the systems work as desired.
This whitepaper will examine advances in process technology and circuit design that promise significant improvements in radiation hardness for next-generation semiconductor solutions. Such advances, coupled with higher levels of integration, promise significant increases in performance and major reductions in size, weight, and power for solutions that will be used in future satellite, missile, nuclear reactors, and other high-radiation environments.
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