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Title: Radiation Hardened Electronics Destined For Severe Nuclear Reactor Environments

Post nuclear accident conditions represent a harsh environment for electronics. The full station blackout experience at Fukushima shows the necessity for emergency sensing capabilities in a radiation-enhanced environment. This NEET (Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies) research project developed radiation hardened by design (RHBD) electronics using commercially available technology that employs commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) devices and present generation circuit fabrication techniques to improve the total ionizing dose (TID) hardness of electronics. Such technology not only has applicability to severe accident conditions but also to facilities throughout the nuclear fuel cycle in which radiation tolerance is required. For example, with TID tolerance to megarads of dose, electronics could be deployed for long-term monitoring, inspection and decontamination missions. The present work has taken a two-pronged approach, specifically, development of both board and application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) level RHBD techniques. The former path has focused on TID testing of representative microcontroller ICs with embedded flash (eFlash) memory, as well as standalone flash devices that utilize the same fabrication technologies. The standalone flash devices are less complicated, allowing better understanding of the TID response of the crucial circuits. Our TID experiments utilize biased components that are in-situ tested, and in full operation during irradiation. A potentialmore » pitfall in the qualification of memory circuits is the lack of rigorous testing of the possible memory states. For this reason, we employ test patterns that include all ones, all zeros, a checkerboard of zeros and ones, an inverse checkerboard, and random data. With experimental evidence of improved radiation response for unbiased versus biased conditions, a demonstration-level board using the COTS devices was constructed. Through a combination of redundancy and power gating, the demonstration board exhibits radiation resilience to over 200 krad. Furthermore, our ASIC microprocessor using RHBD techniques was shown to be fully functional after an exposure of 2.5 Mrad whereas the COTS microcontroller units failed catastrophically at <100 krad. The methods developed in this work can facilitate the long-term viability of radiation-hard robotic systems, thereby avoiding obsolescence issues. As a case in point, the nuclear industry with its low purchasing power does not drive the semiconductor industry strategic plans, and the rapid advancements in electronics technology can leave legacy systems stranded.« less
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  1. Arizona State Univ., Tempe, AZ (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Arizona State Univ., Tempe, AZ (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Nuclear Energy (NE)
Country of Publication:
United States