Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Rice-made memory chips headed to space: Silicon oxide circuits part of two-year radiation test at International Space Station

Rice University graduate student Jun Yao holds a memory chip made of silicon oxide. This chip will spent two years at the International Space Station as part of an experiment, HiMassSEE, to test it for susceptibility to radiation. (Credit Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)
Rice University graduate student Jun Yao holds a memory chip made of silicon oxide. This chip will spent two years at the International Space Station as part of an experiment, HiMassSEE, to test it for susceptibility to radiation. (Credit Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

Abstract:
Rice University will send an experiment to the International Space Station (ISS) later this year. If all goes perfectly, it will be precisely the same when it returns two years later.

Rice-made memory chips headed to space: Silicon oxide circuits part of two-year radiation test at International Space Station

Houston, TX | Posted on May 23rd, 2011

Memory chips made of silicon oxide, the product of a breakthrough last year by the labs of Rice chemist James Tour, physicist Douglas Natelson and electrical and computer engineering professor Lin Zhong, will go aloft aboard a Russian Progress cargo ship in August for a lengthy stay at the ISS to see if radiation affects their nanoscale circuits.

Tour, Rice's T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry as well as a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and of computer science, said the experiment is meant to show how well the sub-5-nanometer circuits stand up to the rigors of space, where constant bombardment by solar and other cosmic radiation poses an ever-present danger to both equipment and personnel.

Memory chips being created at Rice will be collected by NASA soon and packaged with other types of nonvolatile memories that don't depend on having to carry a charge, as common flash memory does.

They will be sent to Russia to fly on Progress 44, a cargo mission, as part of the HiMassSEE experiment. The intention is to characterize the effects of primary and secondary ionizing radiation on such circuitry.

Steven Koontz, ISS system manager for space environments, said, "We want to look at what happens at high shielding mass (that is, inside the ISS itself). The original motivation, and the largest part of the flight experiment content, really has to do with questions that are beginning to come up about secondary particle showers."

When nuclei collide at high energies, they scatter secondary particles in every direction -- just the kind of thing scientists are studying at places like the Large Hadron Collider and Brookhaven National Laboratory (a collaborator on HiMassSEE).

"When a heavy nucleus strikes a nucleus in the spacecraft, events that look like cosmic rays or showers are expected to occur," Koontz said. "We have been successfully ignoring those for many years because microelectronics didn't contain high-Z elements. They do now." Elements with high atomic numbers -- tungsten, hafnium, lead and gold -- are susceptible to disruption and raise the probability of failure in electronic components that use them, he said.

But silicon oxide circuits devised last year by Jun Yao, a graduate student in Tour's lab, contain no heavy metals, which makes them less likely to be destroyed by flying nuclei. Yao discovered that sending a current through silicon oxide, an insulator, could create a conductive pathway of silicon crystals. Electrical pulses could then repeatedly break and reconnect the pathway. That can be read as zero or one, the basic element of computer memory.

"The probability of a radiation event hitting that sub-5-nanometer wire is so small that it probably would never even get hit," Tour said. Earth-bound bombardment of silicon oxide circuits confirmed his suspicion. "In all of our tests, they've never been hit. So I presume it's going to work very well. And even if a circuit does get hit, you've only lost one memory bit. We're sending thousands of them."

Silicon oxide memory got wide attention last year for its potential to extend the boundaries of Moore's Law, which posits that integrated circuits would double in power every 18 months.

Computer scientists have long thought Moore would be no more once circuits got as small as 10 nanometers wide. Current commercially available processors sport 32-nanometer circuitry, and 28-nanometer fabrication is starting to come online.

While powerful computers are essential to space technology, power is less of an issue in this experiment than the ability to maintain coherence in the hostile environment of space, particularly for satellite circuitry or for missions to Mars and beyond.

The container holding the Rice chips, about the size of an Altoids tin, will stay inside the ISS with the rest of HiMassSEE. Rice's part of the experiment will return to campus in two years to be compared with identically configured chips that will remain at Tour's lab.

Yao made the centimeter-square chips in a Rice clean room. Although he will be long gone, doctorate in hand, when his chips come down to Earth, he said, "I'm excited because it's the first time in the Tour Group that something fabricated in the lab has been taken into space."

The work is being done via the NASA-funded Small Business Innovation Research program administered through PrivaTran LLC.

####

About Rice University
Located on a 285-acre forested campus in Houston, Texas, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation's top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is known for its “unconventional wisdom." With 3,485 undergraduates and 2,275 graduate students, Rice's undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is less than 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice has been ranked No. 1 for best quality of life multiple times by the Princeton Review and No. 4 for "best value" among private universities by Kiplinger's Personal Finance. To read "What they're saying about Rice," go to futureowls.rice.edu/images/futureowls/Rice_Brag_Sheet.pdf.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
David Ruth
713-348-6327


Mike Williams
713-348-6728

Copyright © Rice University

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Looking for the quantum frontier: Beyond classical computing without fault-tolerance? April 27th, 2017

Metal nanoparticles induced visible-light photocatalysis: Mechanisms, applications, ways of promoting catalytic activity and outlook April 27th, 2017

Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals to Webcast Fiscal 2017 Second Quarter Results April 27th, 2017

California Research Alliance by BASF establishes more than 25 research projects in three years April 26th, 2017

Chip Technology

Geoffrey Beach: Drawn to explore magnetism: Materials researcher is working on the magnetic memory of the future April 25th, 2017

'Neuron-reading' nanowires could accelerate development of drugs for neurological diseases April 12th, 2017

Nanometrics to Announce First Quarter Financial Results on May 2, 2017 April 11th, 2017

AIM Photonics Presents Cutting-Edge Integrated Photonics Technology Developments to Packed House at OFC 2017, the Optical Networking and Communication Conference & Exhibition April 11th, 2017

Nanoelectronics

Researchers “iron out” graphene’s wrinkles: New technique produces highly conductive graphene wafers April 3rd, 2017

A big leap toward tinier lines: Self-assembly technique could lead to long-awaited, simple method for making smaller microchip patterns March 27th, 2017

Scientists discover new 'boat' form of promising semiconductor: GeSe Uncommon form attenuates semiconductor's band gap size March 23rd, 2017

UC researchers use gold coating to control luminescence of nanowires: University of Cincinnati physicists manipulate nanowire semiconductors in pursuit of making electronics smaller, faster and cheaper March 17th, 2017

Announcements

Looking for the quantum frontier: Beyond classical computing without fault-tolerance? April 27th, 2017

Metal nanoparticles induced visible-light photocatalysis: Mechanisms, applications, ways of promoting catalytic activity and outlook April 27th, 2017

Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals to Webcast Fiscal 2017 Second Quarter Results April 27th, 2017

Video captures bubble-blowing battery in action: Researchers propose how bubbles form, could lead to smaller lithium-air batteries April 26th, 2017

Aerospace/Space

Space energy technology restored to make power stations more efficient: Scientists use graphene to reinvent abandoned heat energy converter technology March 7th, 2017

Applied Graphene Materials plc - Significant commercial progress in AGM’s three core sectors March 3rd, 2017

Triboelectric Nanogenerators Boost Mass Spectrometry Performance March 1st, 2017

EmTech Asia breaks new barriers with potential applications of space exploration with NASA and MIT February 22nd, 2017

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project