Airbus tests integrated circuits for satellites at the ESRF


Airbus has come to the ESRF to test how well electronic devices used in satellites can sustain cosmic radiations.

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When satellites are sent to outer space, they become under considerable stress through galactic cosmic rays and solar particles. The electronic components used inside satellites can malfunction if they are not robust enough to these ionizing particles.


Until now, engineers from AIRBUS have tested these components in cyclotron facilities, under heavy ions. Most of the cyclotrons provide high LET (Linear Energy Transfer) heavy ions not capable to penetrate through significant thickness of materials. “As technology develops, we create more complex chips, which contain active layers that can be very different to each other, and traditional cyclotrons can’t access the buried layers”, explains Cecile Weulersse, researcher at AIRBUS.

Thanks to some US studies performed since 10 years where scientists had tested several planar devices using X-ray beams, that allow simulating effects induced by heavy ions, AIRBUS’ team decided to try out this methodology at the ESRF. “We are here to validate the method on a 3D stacked memory”, Weulersse says.

The team has come to beamline ID09, where they give the sample a single pulse and check how the device behaves. The advantage of synchrotron sources is that X-rays can penetrate into different layers.

This project is partly funded by DEMETER, an ECSEL Joint Undertaking,a EU-driven, public-private partnership, funding innovation in electronic components and systems.

Text and video by Montserrat Capellas Espuny

Top image: One of the samples studied at the ESRF. Credits: C. Argoud