Radiation-hardened components for highly reliable space missions


Just like in spacecrafts, the devices inside accelerators and detectors must be able to withstand high levels of radiation. For this reason, CERN has designed and tested many radiation-hardened microelectronics, optoelectronics and detector components. Today, these technologies can have direct applications in space, from power distribution to data transmission and processing. CERN also investigates new fields: high efficiency gallium-nitride power transistors, as well as breakthrough silicon photonics solutions.

Apart from the well-known Timepix and other hybrid-pixel sensors, CERN explores new radiation-hardened detection technologies suitable for space applications. MAPS (Monolithic Active Pixel Sensors) sensors, like ALPIDE, as well as Gas Electron Multipliers are being considered for scientific space missions like China’s CSES-2, to study the impact of seismic events on the Earth’s magnetic fields, and NASA’s IXPE, to measure the polarisation of cosmic X-rays.

From power distribution to data transmission and data processing, many technologies developed at CERN are suitable for space applications:

  • DC-DC converter modules (FEAST and bPOL systems);
  • Optical transceivers (GigaBit Versatile Link and Versatile Link PLUS transceiver projects);
  • General purpose FPGA-based radiation tolerant boards (GEFE, GBT Expandable Front-End).