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NASA Space Hardware Science

NASA Building Massively Heat-Resistant Chips 172

coondoggie writes "NASA researchers have designed and built a new circuit chip that can take the heat of a blast furnace and keep on performing. Silicon carbide (SiC) chips can operate at 600 degrees Celsius or 1,112 degrees Fahrenheit where conventional silicon-based electronics — limited to about 350 C — would fail. The new silicon carbide differential amplifier integrated circuit chip may provide benefits to anything requiring long-lasting electronic circuits in very hot environments such as jets, spacecraft, and industrial machinery. In particular, NASA said SiC applications will include energy storage, renewable energy, nuclear power, and electrical drives."
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NASA Building Massively Heat-Resistant Chips

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  • by Falstius ( 963333 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @12:21AM (#20567021)
    Unfortunately, the metal interconnects would probably melt. They're probably doing all of the interconnects with doped carbide, making this chip very slow (or power hungry). Its a shame when your CPU starts dripping metal from running folding@home.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @12:26AM (#20567073)
    Presumably the chip has to sit on some type of circuit board, connected to other components.

    So it's OK if the chip survives but the rest of the circuit melts?
  • Venus Lander! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Derling Whirvish ( 636322 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @12:31AM (#20567127) Journal
    Maybe we can finally get a decent lander or rover on Venus.
  • by smashin234 ( 555465 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @12:55AM (#20567339) Journal
    "20 years ago, I wouldn't have even thought to question NASA's work, but their track record lately invites such abuse."

    You underfund the agency and expect huge rewards? We dumped so much more money into NASA back in the days of the spacerace and we as a society benefited from hundreds of technologies that today we take for granted.

    I am not saying NASA shouldn't be watched for spending....but you can't expect an agency to perform if you don't give it money.

    This may not be a huge accomplishment, but being able to withstand higher heat means that you can keep your current cooling apparatus the same and simply allow the chip to run faster (and hotter). Yes, the heat still needs to escape, and there may be other problems with implementation, but you have to take that first step first.
  • My first questions (Score:3, Insightful)

    by artifex2004 ( 766107 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @01:02AM (#20567403) Journal
    Have they got a carrier or other method of holding it to a circuit board that will stand up to that heat? Speaking of, have they got circuit boards that stand up to that heat? And obviously solder can't be used. So how will they interconnect? Glass fiber may melt at higher temps, but I'll bet the optical properties distort well before then, considering it glows when it gets hot enough. Not to mention they have to make the emitters and receivers withstand that temp as well.
  • by Iowan41 ( 1139959 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @01:28AM (#20567569)
    Kinda like flight. Or going faster than 20 miles an hour. A little engineering thinking makes it easy to get around the pressure problem: Let it be "wet" not "dry" No need to maintain 1 bar in a pressure vessel, now is there? Of course, the other components have to handle the heat, too, not just the chips.
  • by unassimilatible ( 225662 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @01:55AM (#20567733) Journal
    Why even have a heatsink?
  • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @08:07AM (#20570079)
    Since Venus's surface temperature is about 460 C, these chips would presumably work on the surface of Venus, which would allow for long duration landers, or even rovers, should we want to do that. I think of Venus, "Earth's evil twin," as being a very interesting planet, but there has never been very much interest in exploring it at NASA.

    The only pictures [] we have of the surface of Venus are from the Venera landers. (These USSR Venus landers [] were all inernally insulated and weren't designed to last on the surface more than about an hour; since the data were relayed from the fly-by bus spacecraft which was only in range for about that duration, there was no point in doing more.)
  • Re:Great idea (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @09:34AM (#20571205)
    Here's a quick tip: If you can tell what he meant, shut the fuck up!

I was playing poker the other night... with Tarot cards. I got a full house and 4 people died. -- Steven Wright