What is Radiation Tolerance?

What is radiation tolerance in electronic components?

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- everything RF

Mar 10, 2022

Radiation tolerance of electronic components is their ability to shield themselves from the radiation in their working environments. These electronic components usually consist of transistors, resistors, diodes, capacitors, integrated circuits (ICs), sensors, SoCs, among others. Most electronic components and devices are affected by ionizing radiation due to particle radiation or high-energy electromagnetic radiation found in harsh environments such as outer space, nuclear power plants, particle accelerators, or during nuclear accident/ nuclear warfare.

In ionizing radiation, the radiation energy of particles or high-energy electromagnetic radiation passes through the semiconductor (material used to produce electronic components). The radiation energy gets transferred to the electrons and nucleus of semiconductor and ruptures the chemical bonds, which leads to ionization and atomic displacement. The ionization and atomic displacement introduce changes in electronic components characteristics and can even damage the components in some cases. 

Effects of radiation on various commonly used electronic components

Typical sources of ionizing radiation are the Van Allen radiation belts for satellites, high energy radiation within nuclear power plants for sensors and control circuits, residual radiation from isotopes in chip packaging materials, cosmic radiation for spacecraft and high-altitude aircraft, and radiation of nuclear explosions for potentially all military and civilian electronics.

To withstand the radiation, electronic components go thru the process of radiation-hardening (and are usually called radiation-hardened components).

Radiation hardened electronic components are less susceptible to damage from exposure to radiation and extreme temperature (-550 C to 1250 C). These components exhibit the same characteristics as regular non-hardened electronics components, but they have been designed, manufactured, and tested to resist/tolerate various types of radiation damage that can occur in harsh environments.

Click here to learn more about radiation-hardened electronic components.