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Inherently Radiation Hardened Microelectronic Components


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Electronics, Sensors, Space Platforms


Develop radiation hardened electronic components capable of surviving and operating through exposure to radiation environments encountered in space.


This topic seeks the design and fabrication of inherently radiation hardened microelectronic components. Electronic components and systems exposed to radiation in space may experience power resets, safing (de-arming), performance degradation, and/or temporary or permanent failure due to cumulative effects of long-term exposure or high energetic particle and/or photon fluence. Radiation sources in space include particles geo-magnetically confined in radiation belts (protons, electrons, heavy ions); particles from solar winds, coronal mass ejections (proton rich) or flares (heavy ion rich); omnidirectional free space particles (galactic cosmic rays, heavy ions); or particles and photons from man-made events (X-rays, Gamma-rays, neutrons, radioactive debris) as well as electro-magnetic pulse (EMP). Typically, systems employ a combination of methods for radiation protection: shielding, part redundancy, circumvent and recovery (C&R), rad-hard by design (RHD), and hardened parts. Using shielding and redundant parts imposes mass penalties. C&R places a system in a protective mode until a radiation event passes leaving the system vulnerable during the down time. RHD develops radiation tolerant circuits that minimize single point failures. The hardened parts approach involves design, fabrication, selection and screening of parts for radiation tolerance.

New manufacturing techniques and recent developments in nano-materials create an opportunity to develop electronic components that are inherently insensitive to radiation effects. In particular, vacuum field effect component technology (e.g. diodes, triodes, transistors) and functional devices made from these components (e.g. OPAMPs, simple logic devices) using high density three dimensional (3D) radiation hardened capability requiring minimal shielding and/or C&R.

Desire parts able to survive and operate through space radiation environments with recommended total ionizing dose (TID) >300 krads (Si), single event upsets (SEU) < 10-10 errors/bit-day, and immunity to single event latch-up (SEL) at linear energy transfer (LET) levels > 100 MeV cm2/mg. Development of a radiation hardened field-programmable gate array, with a technology node less than 45nm, is a specific government application for this technology.


Design radiation insensitive component(s), simple circuit(s), and/or 3D fabrication technique(s). Provide analysis substantiating proposed component(s), simple circuit(s), and/or 3D fabrication technique(s) can survive and operate through realistic radiation environments. Fabricate simple proof of principle prototypes and establish baseline performance parameters.


Optimize design(s) to improve baseline performance, increase survivability and level of operability in realistic radiation environments. Fabricate and test optimized parts in realistic radiation environments and against standard military temperature cycling specification. Work with a vendor/trusted foundry/fabrication house and/or military prime contractor on part(s) manufacturability/producibility. Incorporate hardened parts in a representative space avionic subsystem/system application and test in realistic space radiation environments.


Team with a vendor/trusted foundry/fabrication house and/or military prime contractor to develop and space qualify radiation-hardened parts. Work with the transition partner to establish a pathway to insert technology into an existing or planned missile defense application.

KEYWORDS: Vacuum, Channel, Tube, Nanotechnology, Nanomaterials, Microelectronics, Transistor, Radiation, Hardening


1. Demming, A., Vacuum technology comeback immunizes nanoelectronics from radiation, Physics World, IOP Publishing, 31 Aug 2013.

2. Markoff, J., Smaller Chips May Depend on Vacuum Tube Technology, The New York Times, 5 Jun 2016.

3. Han, J. and Meyyappan, M., Introducing the Vacuum Transistor: A Device Made of Nothing, IEEE Spectrum, 23 Jun 2014.

4. Srisonphan, S., Jung, Y. & Kim, H. Metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistor with a vacuum channel. Nature Nanotech 7, 504-508 (2012).

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