Exploring Europa Utilizing New Transistor Know-how

Researchers develop a brand new silicon-germanium heterojunction bipolar transistor know-how to discover Europa’s excessive atmosphere.

Europa. Credit score : NASA

Europa, Considered one of Jupiter’s moons, can also be one of the crucial promising locations within the photo voltaic system to search for extraterrestrial life. But it surely falls within the radiation belt of the planet. No matter that the Europa might maintain life underneath the ten kilometers thick layer of ice floor the place a liquid water ocean lies. However with floor temperatures at -180 Celsius and with excessive ranges of radiation, it’s additionally one of the crucial inhospitable locations within the photo voltaic system. Exploring Europa might be potential within the coming years due to new purposes for silicon-germanium transistor know-how analysis at Georgia Tech.

Regents’ Professor John D. Cressler within the College of Electrical and Laptop Engineering (ECE) and his college students have been working with silicon-germanium heterojunction bipolar transistors (SiGe HBTs) for many years and have discovered them to have distinctive benefits in excessive environments like Europa.

The SiGe HBT introduces a nanoscale Si-Ge alloy inside a typical bipolar transistor to nano-engineer its properties, successfully producing a a lot sooner transistor whereas sustaining the economy-of-scale and low price of conventional silicon transistors. SiGe HBTs have the distinctive skill to take care of efficiency underneath excessive radiation publicity, and their properties naturally enhance at colder temperatures.

To check whether or not the brand new machine can work in Europa’s atmosphere, used JPL’s Dynamitron, a machine that shoots high-flux electrons at very low temperatures to check SiGe in Europa-type environments. They uncovered SiGe HBTs to at least one million Volt electrons to a radiation dose of 5 million rads of radiation (200-400 rads is deadly to people), at 300, 200, and 115 Kelvins (-160 Celsius).

Within the subsequent two years, the GT and UT researchers will develop precise circuits from SiGe that might be used on Europa, equivalent to radios and microcontrollers. But extra importantly, these gadgets might then be seamlessly utilized in nearly any area atmosphere, together with on the moon and Mars.

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