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Electronics in space applications
Photo: Jang-Kwon Lim

Important testing for electronics in space applications

To be able to use electronics in space applications, these must undergo extensive testing and verification in the space environment. RISE organizes and helps carry out these important tests for power electronics in space applications.

To ensure that electronic components in space applications will not break or deteriorate under the harsh conditions of the space environment, such as radiation, electrical components must undergo extensive testing and verification. Heavy ions moving through space can cause single event effects (SEEs) that lead to permanent failures and degradations in electronics.

Power semiconductors mounted on space satellites are generally subjected to SEE evaluations in accordance with JESD 57A, ESCC 25100, and MIL 750 TM 1080 standards*, before the mission to verify the radiation tolerance of components. The evaluation methods within these standards include thresholds for LET/drain bias, saturation LET, angular effect, and pre-irradiation measurement. Therefore, most institutions and companies limit SEE evaluations to non-used power semiconductors before the mission is performed. However, in the space environment, power semiconductors exposed to heavy ion damage during operation require more advanced SEE tests that consider these realistic conditions.

Producing and testing these specialized components incurs high costs. Over the years, space technology companies have started investigating the use of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) components to reduce these costs. Moving from radiation-tolerant special components to commercially available ones is expected to lower development costs for space technology. However, for institutions and companies developing satellites, using only radiation-hardened devices can be a significant financial burden.

Recently, RISE expert Jang-Kwon Lim arranged and participated in such tests for SiC power devices and GaN RF transistors. Together with the South Korean company QRT Inc., and two institutes, ETRI (Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute) and KAERI (Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute), heavy ion radiation measurements on commercial power MOSFETs were conducted.

A MOSFET, or metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistor, is a type of field-effect transistor (FET) commonly fabricated by the controlled oxidation of silicon. It has an insulated gate, the voltage of which determines the conductivity of the device. This ability to change conductivity with the amount of applied voltage can be used for amplifying or switching electronic signals. The main advantage of a MOSFET is that it requires almost no input current to control the load current, compared to bipolar junction transistors (BJTs). MOSFETs are by far the most common transistors in digital circuits, as billions may be included in a memory chip or microprocessor.

The results of the tests showed that it is important to test power MOSFETs in a more realistic gate switching mode as opposed to the conventional non-switching method that is commonly used.

"Under heavy ion radiation the gate switching mode was the harshest, so it is important to test under this more realistic condition", says RISE senior expert Dr. Jang-Kwon Lim. "During the tests we identified power MOSFETs that showed a high resistance to heavy ion radiation damage that can be candidates as COTS components for space applications."

The tests were performed at the RADEF beam facility in Finland. RADEF, the RADiation Effects Facility, specializes in applied research related to nuclear and accelerator-based technologies to study radiation effects in electronics and related materials.

These activities highlight RISE's expertise in Wide Band Gap (WBG) power devices under such rigorous tests. By leveraging our deep technical knowledge and advanced testing capabilities, we are at the forefront of ensuring the reliability and performance of power semiconductors in space applications.

For more information about these tests and the results, contact Dr. Jang-Kwon Lim (

  • JESD 57A: A standard that outlines procedures for evaluating the radiation tolerance of microelectronic devices to single event effects (SEE).
  • ESCC 25100: A European standard for testing the susceptibility of electronic components to radiation, including heavy ion and proton exposure, to ensure their reliability in space environments.
  • MIL 750 TM 1080: A military standard that specifies methods for assessing the effects of radiation on semiconductor devices, including SEE testing, to ensure their performance and durability in radiation-prone environments.
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