Chip resistant to all Italians radiation

Chip resistant to all Italians radiation

The Italian Space Agency has officially funded the RAD-PROM project for the development of PROM for rad-hard space applications, that has been entrusted the company Milanese RedCat Devices, specializing in the development of analog / digital signal converters and digital / analog and memories, both volatile and non-volatile, Aerospace.

The ASI, PM through the project Luca Fasano, He explains on its website that the goal of this new project is to create an innovative non-volatile memory cell type antifuse capable of withstanding the ionizing radiation, employing technologies used for the production of integrated circuits of the CMOS type standard (Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor) available on the market. The chips using technology “antifuse” employ a thin barrier of amorphous silicon dielectric material (circa 9 nanometers of silicon nitride) between two metallic conductors. When a sufficiently high voltage is applied (by means of a short pulse of approximately 1 millisecond amplitude of approximately 16 volt), all over the amorphous silicon is transformed into a polycrystalline silicon-metal alloy that is conductive and has a low resistance.

It is known for some time now that the electronic circuits that are loaded on board of satellites and probes must withstand the bombardment of space radiation if you want that the means remain in the long space without malfunctions. A enormous precision is crucial for creating High entropy alloys, materials discovered recently and which are usually the combination of at least 5 different elements. Extremely resistant and ductile, They are ideal for creating objects that must withstand a launch and then remain in orbit.

In the case of Juno probe, for example, They were used tantalum and tungsten as elements dopants in the realization of a special chamber radiation. A space that houses circuits that would otherwise be damaged and may not work in Space.

The radiation chamber of Juno is almost entirely made of titanium, and also this detail is an important experiment for the probe that is observing Jupiter. Although it is clear that you can not build a spaceship without getting into computers, so is the fact that the electronics must be protected from radiation if we hope to build means that they remain in the long-Space and that they are also of sufficient size to carry a human crew.

In the past it has been widely run in chips but this will be subject of a future article

Cristiano Calligaro, CEO at RedCat Devices, He explained that his company's approach is different: the chips themselves must resist radiation. “This is the development of a technology to make non-volatile memories for space applications. Compared to previous solutions the difference of this project is that it is backed drawing at the physical layout level of the device, so that it is compensated for the degradation due to radiation. In other words, through careful design you can get devices that mitigate the effects of radiation. It is a skill we have more than ten years: basically we use standard technologies for which, however, do a dedicated design“.

Elimination of the outer shield

It seeks to prevent the shielding because it adds costs, dimensions and weight. And the radiation passes anyway, even if the shield is able to reduce them. Their design is done in order to offset the effects of degradation due to radiation. It is in fact an error correction, but to avoid the degenerative effect of the information triggered radiation and due to physical phenomena inside the device. By taking proper precautions you can avoid the error. The error correction is however always a necessary procedure but subsequent.

What kind of products will be used

Essentially a small cut made memories that will contain the operating systems of the satellites on board, and more generally of the computer operating system on board satellites or probes. The computers of the satellites are a little’ like the ones we use all: They have an operating system that is to be stored. In the imminence of a solar storm known some satellites or even specific parts of them they are turned off to protect them, once past the risk is booted by reading the operating system from a memory that must be particularly reliable. The purpose of this type of chip is precisely the realization of a component that is able to contain the operating system of the satellite, or star maps that are essential to the satellites to be able to orientate.

What are the development time?

Over the next two years you will have to do all the tests and coolaudi, They claim that they have a very clear idea of ​​how to proceed thanks to the experience already gained, one reads between the lines of their statements the intention of creating its own intellectual property and using it productively as possible for the future, not bad for a star born in tap 2006.

The loan to the RAD-PROM project is part of the operational objectives and program guidelines and ASI investment, in particular with regard to the improvement of basic Technologies, as reported in the ten-year Strategic Vision Document (2010-2020).

My sincere wish is that they have the success they deserve to hold high the Italian intellectual fame that the world envies.

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