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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 JazzyMusicMan ( 1012801 ) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @11:50PM (#20566731)
    As I read all I could think about was...overclocking
  • A=A if you ignore B (Score:1, Interesting)

    by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @11:52PM (#20566753)
    If I have 1 apple in basket A and 1 apple in basket B, how many things do I have, altogether?

    Sure, you can withstand 600 degrees of heat, but what about the heat generated internally? If that heat can't escape, you're looking at temps much hotter than your 600 degrees blast furnace.

    20 years ago, I wouldn't have even thought to question NASA's work, but their track record lately invites such abuse.
  • by siyavash ( 677724 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @12:38AM (#20567209) Journal
    It's nice and all but will we be able to build a fanless PC from it? Although I'm not sure how fast the PC would operate if it could be allowed to get that hot?
  • Re:350C for Silicon? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ApharmdB ( 572578 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @07:38AM (#20569871)
    SiC is meant as a replacement for GaAs in RF circuitry. SiC and GaN are the next generation semiconductors with much, much better thermal properties and max voltage than GaAs. SiC is not meant as a replacement for Si on digital chips as far as I know, but I'm an RF electrical engineer.
  • by dstiggy ( 1145347 ) <> on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @08:07AM (#20570077)
    They're not the only company doing this. Diamonex [] a subsidiary of Morgan Advanced Ceramics has been making diamond on silicon for years. I should know as I have a part of a wafer sitting on my desk at home. As for the people worried about heat dissipation, these things move heat amazingly well (better than copper). I've taken the wafer and on edge it will cut through an ice cube like a knife through warm butter. Unfortunately it will turn your fingers numb in about 3 seconds too from the heat transfer.
  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @12:14PM (#20574281)

    Adjusted for inflation, NASA's funding is about half what it was in 1966. And about 50% greater than the trough in the late 70's. The current budget is over 16 billion USD this year. That's a lot of money. We can whine about how underfunded NASA is. But until they start spending their money better, it's not going to change. About a quarter of that is spent on the Shuttle and ISS. Namely, an obselete launch vehicle with huge overhead and an underperforming research station in LEO that would be underperforming even if it were complete and fully manned.

    My take is that unless NASA (and US Congress) makes major changes in how it does things, then any funding throws good money after bad. For starters, I believe NASA should use US commercial launch vehicles (Delta IV heavy, Atlas V heavy, Falcon 9, Minotaur, etc) rather than develope its own. Nix the Shuttle, Ares 1, and discontinue the ISS construction. There might be a use for the ISS in orbit though maintenance is rather pricy (over a billion a year in USD last I heard). Expand NASA's unmanned part. I grant that there's certain things that become easier to do with heavy launch vehicles (eg, Ares V) so it might be worthwhile to develope such a vehicle. Personally, I doubt that is necessary. If NASA were to encourage investment in US commercial launch ("seek and encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space" is Congress's first stated directive [] for NASA) rather than sabotage it.

    NASA could run a real space program on its current funding. The money it squanders on various make work projects (eg, all those potential shuttle replacements that never happened), the pointless manned space projects (the Shuttle and ISS), and the expensive R&D on a rocket that can be provided by the commercial world (the Ares 1) could buy a lot of commercial launches.

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.