Microelectronics Research Development Corporation (Micro-RDC) proposes to develop a low cost radiation hardened integrated circuit (IC) technology that creates new solid-state circuits at reasonable cost. The project will enable delivery of electronics that can operate in space for a prolonged time and without errors.
The enhanced technology should encourage many firms to participate in recently announced lunar payload projects and for the Moon to Mars campaign. Almost any application that NASA desires to address, such as thermal management, energy storage, rad hard-high performance computing, cryogenic fluid management, various lunar sensors, solar arrays, and coordination of space vehicle swarms requires rad hard electronics able to withstand ionizing space radiation for a prolonged time.
The premise behind this novel approach is to leverage in-house Micro-RDC expertise in radiation hardening to device design. Micro-RDC will develop and then lay out a set of test structures that will be tested for the total ionizing dose (TID) and single event upset (SEU) effects. Layout modification will be completed on elements prone to degradation transistors on already existing, commercially available processes (e.g. bulk 0.13um from Jazz) without any changes to the process itself.
Once fabricated, test bars will be properly characterized under ionizing source and cryogenic temperatures, replicating circuits operating in space.
Upon completion, Micro -RDC will deliver a set of rad-hard pcells with the same current-voltage (I-V) and other electrical characteristics found in standard cells, but with much higher resistance to adverse TID and SEU effects. Devices will be properly characterized and modeled, ready for low cost use in redesigns and new designs by end users and system integrators.
To demonstrate the viability of the approach, Micro-RDC will redesign a test vehicle (micro-controller 8051 in Phase II) that will be re-tested for radiation hardness and robustness.
NASA will see a direct benefit from this project by having access to a radiation-hardened-by-design approach that will significantly lower expenses of new integrated circuits. This will encourage many design houses to deliver advanced ICs for a variety of applications, such as the recent lunar payload and Moon to Mars campaigns. The results of the program will be made available to fabs creating multiple sources and competition capable of modifying standard cells to expand design kits for rad hard cells that will greatly benefit the end users.
Results of this program will show how to enhance the capabilities of older fabrication lines with depreciated equipment for rad hard applications. The older fabs will be able to prolong their economic lives by providing technologies to the burgeoning commercial space market. The availability of low cost and rad hard processes will encourage many small design houses to enter the space market.