A five-year project led by the Georgia Institute of Technology has developed a novel approach to space electronics that could change how space vehicles and instruments are designed. The new capabilities are based on silicon-germanium (SiGe) technology, which can produce electronics that are highly resistant to both wide temperature variations and space radiation.
Titled "SiGe Integrated Electronics for Extreme Environments," the $12 million, 63-month project was funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). In addition to Georgia Tech, the 11-member team included academic researchers from the University of Arkansas, Auburn University, University of Maryland, University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt University. Also involved in the project were BAE Systems, Boeing Co., IBM Corp., Lynguent Inc. and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
"The team's overall task was to develop an end-to-end solution for NASA a tested infrastructure that includes everything needed to design and build extreme-environment electronics for space missions," said John Cressler, who is a Ken Byers Professor in Georgia Tech's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Cressler served as principal investigator and overall team leader for the project.
A paper on the project findings will appear in December in IEEE Transactions on Device and Materials Reliability, 2010. During the past five years, work done under the project has resulted in some 125 peer-reviewed publications.
SiGe alloys combine silicon, the most common microchip material, with germanium at nanoscale dimensions. The result is a robust material that offers important gains in toughness, speed and flexibility.
That robustness is crucial to silicon-germanium's ability to function in space without bulky radiation shields or large, power-hungry temperature control devices. Compared to conventional approaches, SiGe e
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