Carbon nanotubes might assist electronics face up to outer space’s harsh circumstances


Oct 27, 2021

(Nanowerk News) Space missions, corresponding to NASA’s Orion that can take astronauts to Mars, are pushing the bounds of human exploration. But throughout their transit, spacecrafts encounter a steady stream of damaging cosmic radiation, which may hurt and even destroy onboard electronics. To prolong future missions, researchers reporting in ACS Nano (“Carbon Nanotubes for Radiation-Tolerant Electronics”) present that transistors and circuits with carbon nanotubes could be configured to keep up their electrical properties and reminiscence after being bombarded by excessive quantities of radiation. A reminiscence chip was fabricated from transistors with carbon nanotubes that maintained their electrical properties and reminiscence after being bombarded by excessive quantities of radiation. (© ACS Nano) The lifetime and distance of deep space missions are at present restricted by the vitality effectivity and robustness of the know-how driving them. For instance, harsh radiation in space can injury electronics and trigger information glitches, and even make computer systems break down fully. One risk is to incorporate carbon nanotubes in extensively used digital parts, corresponding to field-effect transistors. These single-atom-thick tubes are anticipated to make transistors extra vitality environment friendly in comparison with extra run-of-the-mill silicon-based variations. In precept, the ultra-small measurement of the nanotubes also needs to assist scale back the consequences that radiation would have when hanging reminiscence chips containing these supplies. However, the radiation tolerance for carbon nanotube field-effect transistors has not been extensively studied. So, Pritpal Kanhaiya, Max Shulaker and colleagues needed to see if they might engineer such a field-effect transistor to face up to excessive ranges of radiation, and construct reminiscence chips based mostly on these transistors. To do that, the researchers deposited carbon nanotubes on a silicon wafer because the semiconducting layer in field-effect transistors. Then, they examined completely different transistor configurations with numerous ranges of protecting, consisting of skinny layers of hafnium oxide and titanium and platinum steel, across the semiconducting layer. The workforce discovered that putting shields each above and beneath the carbon nanotubes protected the transistor’s electrical properties towards incoming radiation as much as 10 Mrad — a stage a lot greater than most silicon-based radiation-tolerant electronics can deal with. When a defend was solely positioned beneath the carbon nanotubes, they have been protected as much as 2 Mrad, which is similar to business silicon-based radiation-tolerant electronics. Finally, to attain a steadiness between fabrication simplicity and radiation robustness, the workforce constructed static random-access reminiscence (SRAM) chips with the underside defend model of the field-effect transistors. Just as with experiments carried out on the transistors, these reminiscence chips had the same X-ray radiation threshold as silicon-based SRAM units. These outcomes point out that carbon nanotube field-effect transistors, particularly double-shielded ones, may very well be a promising addition to next-generation electronics for space exploration, the researchers say.

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