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Advanced Particle Accelerators to Support Heavy-Ion Radiation Testing of Electronics


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


Develop a new capability that transforms low energy accelerators to high energy accelerators or develops a brand new accelerator specifically designed for high energy heavy ion testing of electronics.


This topic seeks a flexible testing facility capable of delivering high energy beams which can test electronics in a representative configuration and reduce the overall testing cost while fully characterizing the Single Event Effects (SEE) response of each part. The United States and its military are sending more, and increasingly complex, computer-run devices into orbit each year. Once in orbit, the circuits within these devices are bombarded by ionizing radiation that can lead to failure. Given the increasing expense of launching space based systems and the microelectronics which reside in them, the testing of these integrated circuits at heavy-ion beam facilities is essential to prevent costly losses due to radiation failure.

The increasing complexity of electronic circuits, with smaller feature sizes and larger overlayers, has made it harder to test at ion beam facilities as the circuits require expensive and difficult preparation for the low-energy ion beams currently in use. In space, high energy ionizing particles can easily traverse the overlayers to reach the sensitive volume where SEE occur. Accelerator facilities performing SEE testing use lower-energy ion beams, which have difficulty reaching these sensitive volumes. Therefore, costly de-lidding of parts is required which is a destructive process removing the outermost layers of a circuit and leaving the exposed circuit in a state that can be difficult to test (e.g. thermal properties are altered) and which is not representative of the on-orbit configuration of the circuit.


Develop a concept to improve existing low energy test capabilities (10 MeV/n or less ion accelerators) and increase their energy to 100 MeV/n or more. Or develop a concept to create a new accelerator that reaches 100 MeV/n or more and can fit into a standard shipping container. Standard ISO shipping container dimensions are: 8ft (2.43m) wide, 8.5ft (2.59m) high and 40ft (6.06m) (Threshold) or 20ft (12.2m) (Objective) long. Provide a detailed report documenting the concept design and its expected max energy levels. For new designs, provide a phased plan of the critical elements to be prototyped if the entire design cannot be prototyped in one follow-on phase.


For designs enhancing current accelerators: Create and provide a prototype of the improved elements/subcomponents for upgrading or adapting a current ion accelerator design to reach the enhanced energy level documented in Phase I. Provide modeling and simulation to demonstrate a complete final design along with a documented approach for implementing these elements and enhancements on a current accelerator design. Identify potential accelerator facilities or manufacturers with which to partner for Phase III implementation.

For new designs: Create and provide a prototype of the new design. If the full prototype cannot be completed in this phase, create and provide prototypes of the critical parts/subcomponents of a new design that would be essential for meeting the increased energy benchmark of 100 MeV/n or more along with modeling and simulation of the final design to demonstrate the capability to fit into a standard shipping container.


Build an operational, improved, or new design ion accelerator that can reach 100 MeV/n or more and operate for 2,000 hours per year. For a design that is an improvement on existing accelerators, if necessary, partner with existing ion testing facilities and/or a manufacturer of current accelerators to demonstrate implementation of the improved design. For new designs, build the final accelerator to fit within a standard shipping container.

KEYWORDS: Ionizing radiation, testing, SEE, Heavy-ion, accelerator, microelectronics


1. Pellish, Jonathan A. et al., Heavy ion testing at the galactic cosmic ray energy peak, IEEE - 2009 European Conference on Radiation and Its Effects on Components and Systems (RADECS), Sept. 14-18, 2009.

2. Schwank, James R. et al, Radiation Hardness Assurance Testing of Microelectronic Devices and Integrated Circuits: Test Guideline for Proton and Heavy Ion Single-Event Effects, IEEE-Transactions on Nuclear Science, Vol. 60, No. 3, June 2013.

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