Exploring Europa possible with silicon-germanium transistor technology
Europa. Credit: NASA

Europa is more than just one of Jupiter’s many moons—it’s also one of most promising places in the solar system to look for extraterrestrial life. Under 10 kilometers of ice is a liquid water ocean that could sustain life. But with surface temperatures at -180 Celsius and with extreme levels of radiation, it’s also one of the most inhospitable places in the solar system. Exploring Europa could be possible in the coming years thanks to new applications for silicon-germanium transistor technology research at Georgia Tech.

Regents’ Professor John D. Cressler in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and his students have been working with silicon-germanium heterojunction bipolar transistors (SiGe HBTs) for decades and have found them to have unique advantages in extreme environments like Europa.

“Due to the way that they’re made, these devices actually survive those extreme conditions without any changes made to the underlying technology itself,” said Cressler, who is the project investigator. “You can build it for what you want it to do on Earth, and you then can use it in space.”

The researchers are in year one of a three-year grant in the NASA Concepts for Ocean Worlds Life Detection Technology (COLDTech) program to design the electronics infrastructure for upcoming Europa surface missions. NASA plans to launch the Europa Clipper in 2024, an orbiting spacecraft that will map the oceans of Europa, and then eventually send a landing vehicle, Europa Lander, to drill through the ice and explore its ocean. But it all starts with electronics that can function in Europa’s extreme environment.

Cressler and his students, together with researchers from NASA Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) and the University of Tennessee (UT), demonstrated the capabilities of SiGe HBTs for this hostile environment in a paper presented at the IEEE Nuclear and Space Radiation Effects Conferencein July.

Europa’s Challenge

Like Earth, Jupiter also has a liquid metal core that generates a magnetic field, producing radiation belts of high-energy protons and electrons from the impinging solar wind. Unfortunately, as a moon of Jupiter, Europa sits squarely in those radiation belts. In effect, any technology designed for Europa’s surface would not only need to be able to survive the cold temperatures but also the worst radiation encountered in the solar system.

Fortunately, SiGe HBTs are ideal for this hostile environment. The SiGe HBT introduces a nanoscale Si-Ge alloy inside a typical bipolar transistor to nano-engineer its properties, effectively producing a much faster transistor while maintaining the economy-of-scale and low cost of traditional silicon transistors. SiGe HBTs have the unique ability to maintain performance under extreme radiation exposure, and their properties naturally improve at colder temperatures. Such a unique combination makes them ideal candidates for Europa exploration.

“It’s not just doing the basic science and proving that SiGe works,” Cressler said. “It’s actually developing electronics for NASA to use on Europa. We know SiGe can survive high levels of radiation. And we know it’s remains functional at cold temperatures. What we did not know is if it could do both at the same time, which is needed for Europa surface missions.”

Testing the Transistors

To answer this question, the GT researchers used JPL’s Dynamitron, a machine that shoots high-flux electrons at very low temperatures to test SiGe in Europa-type environments. They exposed SiGe HBTs to one million Volt electrons to a radiation dose of five million rads of radiation (200-400 rads is lethal to humans), at 300, 200, and 115 Kelvins (-160 Celsius).

“What had never been done was to use electronics like we did in that experiment,” Cressler said. “So, we worked literally for the first year to get the results that are in that paper, which is in essence definitive proof that what we claimed is, in fact, true—that SiGe does survive Europa surface conditions.”

In the next two years, the GT and UT researchers will develop actual circuits from SiGe that could be used on Europa, such as radios and microcontrollers. Yet more importantly, these devices could then be seamlessly used in almost any space environment, including on the moon and Mars.

“If Europa is the worst-case environment in the solar system, and you can build these to work on Europa, then they will work anywhere,” Cressler said. “This research ties together past research that we have done in my team here at Georgia Tech for a long time and shows really interesting and novel applications of these technologies. We pride ourselves on using our research to break new innovative ground and thereby enable novel applications.” More information: Cryogenic Total-Ionizing-Dose Response of 4th-Generation SiGe HBTs using 1-MeV Electrons for Europa-Surface Applications, EEE Nuclear and Space Radiation Effects Conference, July 2022. Provided by Georgia Institute of Technology Citation: Exploring Europa possible with silicon-germanium transistor technology (2022, October 1) retrieved 1 October 2022 from https://techxplore.com/news/2022-10-exploring-europa-silicon-germanium-transistor-technology.html This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

NEWS RELATED

Apple upgrades App Store pricing, adds 700 new price points

ETtech Developers can choose from business models, such as one-time purchases and multiple subscription types Apple on Wednesday upgraded its pricing for the app store for developers adding 700 price points and new pricing tools that will allow firms to set prices as per country or region, manage foreign exchange ...

View more: Apple upgrades App Store pricing, adds 700 new price points

Collision of prehistoric continents 'cooked' the bones of ancient amphibians, say researchers

A photograph of the Jarrow amphibian Keraterpeton galvani on top and a CT-image of K. galvani below showing the alteration in the bones. Credit: Dr Aodhan O’Gogain, Trinity College Dublin Scientists have solved a decades-long mystery as to why ancient tetrapods—amphibian-like creatures that lived over 300 million years ago—preserved ...

View more: Collision of prehistoric continents 'cooked' the bones of ancient amphibians, say researchers

Rivian EV Plant Addresses Bed Bug Infestation: Is Production Affected?

The Rivian electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing plan has been infested with bed bugs in an isolated area. The latest problem comes as the all-electric car maker is working to ramp up the production of its R1S SUV and R1T pickup. (Photo : Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – ...

View more: Rivian EV Plant Addresses Bed Bug Infestation: Is Production Affected?

Vietnam's EV maker VinFast files for US IPO

Vietnam-based electric vehicle maker VinFast announced that it has filed for an initial public offering (IPO) in the US to list on the NASDAQ. VinFast Trading & Investment Pte. Ltd, a subsidiary of Vingroup headquartered in Singapore, announced on Wednesday that it has publicly filed a registration statement on ...

View more: Vietnam's EV maker VinFast files for US IPO

US lawmakers ease planned curbs on Chinese chips amid corporate pushback

Reuters Chips made by SMIC are commissioned by companies all over the world and can be found in products as diverse as cell phones and cars US senators scaled back a proposal that placed new curbs on the use of Chinese-made chips by the US government and its contractors, according ...

View more: US lawmakers ease planned curbs on Chinese chips amid corporate pushback

Wealthcare app Hugosave acquires Visa Principal Member Issuing Licence in Singapore

Singapore-based wealthcare and savings app Hugosave officially announced on Tuesday that it has become a Visa Principal Member Issuing Licensee under its parent company, Atlas Consolidated Pte Ltd. As a principal licence holder, Hugosave will now be able to issue Visa cards directly, as well as sponsor associate licences ...

View more: Wealthcare app Hugosave acquires Visa Principal Member Issuing Licence in Singapore

Coastal diatoms' genetic diversity comes to the rescue when aquatic environments change abruptly

Slag heaps near Solstad copper mine today. Credit: Helena L Filipsson A closed copper mine on the Baltic Sea coast just south of Västervik has helped researchers study the capacity of coastal diatoms to survive when the environmental conditions change. A thesis from the University of Gothenburg shows that ...

View more: Coastal diatoms' genetic diversity comes to the rescue when aquatic environments change abruptly

Uber fined $14 million for misleading on fares and cancellation fees in Australia

ReutersAn Australian court fined Uber Technologies Inc A$21 million ($14 million) on Wednesday for threatening cancellation fees it never charged and overstating fare estimates on some rides.The penalty was less than a regulator wanted.The Australian arm of the U.S. ride-sharing app broke consumer law by misleading customers with warnings they ...

View more: Uber fined $14 million for misleading on fares and cancellation fees in Australia

Here are Google Pixel’s feature drops for December 2022

Overcoming the Challenges to Becoming a Global Digital Marketer - YouYaa

Animoca Brands acquires majority stake in music metaverse company PIXELYNX

Could new cancer drugs come from potatoes and tomatoes?

Researchers find an elusive European parent of lager yeast in Ireland

Imec to cooperate with Japan's Rapidus on 2nm technology

Amnesty International Canada Suffers Security Breach From Alleged China-Sponsored Hackers

Australian entrepreneur Monique Conheady joins Wavemaker Impact as its newest Venture Partner in Australia

ADDX fractionalises venture debt fund by Innoven Capital

'No place for killer robots in our city': San Francisco abandons controversial policy after backlash

China launches newest solid-fuel carrier rocket Kuaizhou 11 Y-2

The significance of TSMC building fabs in US

OTHER NEWS

Breaking thailand news, thai news, thailand news Verified News Story Network