Professor John D. Kressler of the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering of the University of the Vulture and his students, together with staff of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Tennessee University in Utah, demonstrated the possibilities of SiGe HBT for a hostile European environment and presented an improved silicon-hermanium transistor at the IEEE conference on nuclear and space radiation effects.
University of Georgia staff have worked for decades with silicon-hermanic bipolar transistors, and now engineers have proven that these devices have unique advantages for working under extreme conditions, just as they are seen on Jupiter's icy moon.
For the study of Europe, researchers received a grant from NASA Concepts for Ocean Worlds Life Design Technology, COLDTech . The goal is to develop electronics for upcoming missions on the surface of the ice moon, for example for Europa Clipper, which will start in 2024 and send a landing vehicle to Europe Lander for ice drilling and ocean exploration.
According to the designers, SiGe HBT is ideal for this hostile environment, which is essentially a nano-scale silicon alloy and hermania within a typical bipolar transistor. Thanks to the properties of the substances, scientists have created a faster transistor, while maintaining economies of scale and low cost of traditional silicon transistors.
The uniqueness of SiGe HBT is that it remains functional with extreme radiation exposure, and its properties naturally improve at lower temperatures, which is the combination that makes the device ideal for studying and finding life in Europe.
Europe is more than just one of many satellites of gas giants is also one of the most promising places in the solar system to look for extraterrestrial life. Under 10 km ice there is an ocean with liquid water that can sustain life. But with surface temperatures at –180 °C and extreme levels of radiation, it is also one of the most inhospitable places in the solar system.
Like the Earth, Jupiter also has a liquid metal core that generates a magnetic field, producing radiation belts for high-energy protons and electrons. The problem is that they affect Europe. In fact, any technology developed for the surface of the moon must withstand not only low temperatures, but also the strongest radiation in the solar system.