The future at the microscope… Design of Rad Hard non volatile Flash memories for spacial applications (SkyFlash)
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Today we present a european project about design of Rad Hard non volatile Flash memories for spacial applications.
All we have ever heard of the International Space Station (a manned space station and research center), or the unmanned space probes (Voyager and New Horizons) launched to study the planetary system or, even, the set of satellites used to facilitate communications (Hispasat) or provide weather information (Meteosat) and more recently, those related to the Global Monitoring for Environment and Safety (GMES) project to provide Europe with an operational and autonomous capacities for Earth Observation in order to get information on environment and security.
Manufacture and design of such satellites requires a large variety of electronic devices capable of storing a large amount of information. This opens up a very interesting niche market for electronics companies but has also a high-level requirements which basically are not currently satisfied with standard consumer electronics. These requirements are the resistance to radiation, but mechanical resistance (during satellite launch) and thermal resistance. Since the volume of these devices for the “space market” is not very large, the electronics sector interest to develop key technologies suited for space is low, existing a major technology lack
The project aims to define a strong methodology for the design of non-volatile memory (Flash) resistant to radiation with the standard characteristics of those for consumer electronics.
Currently there are basically two specific technologies (Radiation Hardening) to increase the resistance to radiation in electronic devices: one focusing on the development of specific processes in manufacturing that are very expensive and only embraceable by large companies, while the second, cheaper, is based on the design which can allow a greater number of companies to develop specific designs and architectures to reduce the effects of radiation on electronic devices
Moreover, it is of paramount interest in the project to use any of the more standard processes utilized in the manufacture of integrated circuits for consumer electronics, such as CMOS.
An international consortium of 8 organizations (2 electronics SMEs and 6 universities) from 6 different countries has been created to achieved the project targets. They are organized into two integrated teams: one of them focused on the physical design and manufacturing of the device and the other focused on testing issues in order to validate the real resistance of the device.
The USC is involved through the Radiophysics Research Group recognized at international level in the field of radiation detection which also focuses its research on the applications of ionizing radiations, both in medical (radiotherapy) and industrial (NDT instrumentation) fields.
The main result is a qualitative one: the reduction of the actual dependence on critical technologies and capabilities from outside Europe for space applications.
Moreover, resistance to radiations is not only suitable for space applications but also for another niche market related to high energy physics experiments. In this regard, we can point out all the electronic systems used in particle accelerators like the LHC at CERN that currently develops all components by its own.
A new way for a high-tech electronics sector could be created allowing the development of new applications from those technologies developed for space.