NASA has created a microchip that can work in hell

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2017-02-10 15:30:08

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NASA has created a microchip that can work in hell

Camera tests GEER

You may be surprised by the fact that Mars attracts "interplanetary" attention, while Venus, the second planet from the Sun, it would seem, is closer to the Ground. The fact is that this planet has the highest surface temperature of all the planets of the Solar system. There is even hotter than mercury. High temperature in combination with the local dense caustic atmosphere and do not allow any produced on Earth of electronic device to work in such conditions for more than a few hours. And yet scientists seem to have come to the right solution of this problem.

Engineers from the space Agency NASA has developed and tested a new computer chip that can operate without any cooling system and protective shell under high pressure and high temperature similar to the environment of Venus. People don't run landing modules on Venus since 1982 (the last was a Russian module, worked in the local "hell" just over two hours), but according to the plans of NASA, back in 2023, can be sent to the Rover. However, to realize this mission will fail if NASA does not receive a microprocessor capable of withstand ambient temperature of 464 degrees Celsius.

"If you look at the Mars mission on the surface of the red planet already visited by many Rovers, brought together the diverse scientific information. Sorry, we can't boast the same against Venus, as electronics simply can not withstand its harsh conditions" — says Philip Neudeck, an electronics engineer from the Research center NASA's John Glenn.

However, the planet contains many interesting features, which scientists would like to learn more. For example, according to leading experts, information on geological processes and the overwhelming amount of greenhouse gases the atmosphere would help researchers better understand similar processes here on Earth.

To understand how to create a viable Venus computer chip, we must first better understand some aspects related to the production of semiconductors and transistors. Semiconductors – which is mostly the metals that are capable of transmitting electrical current with greater resistance than do conventional conductors. You can change the conductivity of semiconductors, which may make them useful as transistors. Transistors, in turn, they're like little "gates" that stand in the way of current inside the chip that opens and closes depending on the characteristics of the input electrical current. Microchips, which are an integral part of every modern computer, in General, constitute an integral part of the circuits with wires and transistors, are combined into a single semiconductor.

Neudek explains that the main problem for microchips in the conditions of Venus is high temperature and chemically reactive atmosphere. Most computer chips are made on the basis of silicon, however at higher temperatures the material starts to behave as a normal conductor, losing properties of the semiconductor. Created by the same team Naideka chip consists of silicon carbide, capable even at high temperatures to keep semiconducting properties of the microchip. In addition, the team also made sure that the interconnects (wires connecting all the parts of the chip in a single unit), created on the basis of silicon-tantalum, will also be able to withstand extreme temperatures.

Integrated circuit before and after checking in the Luggage GEER

Created a chip designed to transmit electrical signals, the researchers tested inside the camera installation GEER (Glenn Extreme Environments Rig), which in its essence is highly toxic the oven with high pressure. Thanks to her, the researchers can create conditions similar to the terms of the Venusian atmosphere. Microchip has successfully passed the test: withstanding the extreme temperature and pressure, he continued to perform his job functions for more than 21 days.

Of Course, very pleased that scientists finally came to the correct decision, but the "finest hour" for the technology is only just ahead. At the moment the microchip is able to fit all 24 of the transistor, which is comparable rather with the much more ancient microchips, not those that can be found in modern computers.

"Now we are somewhere in the "seventies", if you consider the complexity of our chip with the point of view of Moore's law", — said Neudeck.

Nonetheless, engineers have created a schema in which there will be 100 transistors. And if you think about it, when the Solar system is effectively explored and used less complex chips have been. In the end, apart from healthy chips, to solve not less important problems and issues. One such issue, for example, is developing a suitable Rover to study the surface of Venus.

And yet Neudeck hoped that once his chips are used in computers in the space missions to Venus.

"nobody has created an electric circuit that can operate in such conditions and at such a temperature for such a long time. This really opens up new opportunities for mission on Venus".

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