New Computers Can Survive On Venus

Venus (Image from NASA)

Researchers have struggled to study Venus the same we can study the Moon or Mars. This has to do with the fact that our computers cannot survive the atmospheric and surface conditions of the hottest planet in the solar system. NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland has created interconnects in high-temperature circuits that can stand prolonged use in the intense conditions on Venus.

Circuit for Venus missions. Source:NASA
Above: Before GEER; Below: After GEER

The researchers at Glenn developed silicon carbide semiconductor integrated circuits (ICs) to solve this problem. Ceramic-packaged chips were placed into the Glenn Extreme Environments Rig (GEER), a machine that can simulate Venus’s surface temperature and pressure for hundreds of hours. The silicon-based ICs can functioning at a steady 1.26MHz for 521 hours (21.7) days. Phil Neudeck, the lead electronics engineer, said: “with further technology development, such electronics could drastically improve Venus lander designs and mission concepts, enabling the first long-duration missions to the surface of Venus.” In addition to aiding space exploration, the chips can improve industries on Earth. Aerospace and defense, for example, can use this chip to produce more efficient, environmentally-friendly vehicles and machinery.

Photos of Venus from previous space missions
Photos of Venus from previous space missions

Venus is roughly the size of Earth and is hotter than Mercury, even though Mercury is closer to the sun. Venus’s atmosphere of thick carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid clouds traps large amounts of heat—the surface can reach temperatures of 880 degrees Fahrenheit (471 degrees Celsius). The surface pressure of Venus is 90 times that of Earth, making it difficult to craft rovers that can survive. The Soviet Union sent the Venera 7 to Venus’ surface in 1970, which survived for less than half an hour before the elements were too much for craft to handle. Previous spacecraft that survived Venus’s atmosphere were encased in protective capsules, but the vessels were expensive, heavy, and only lasted a few hours before succumbing to the heat and pressure of the planet.

You can read the full paper at American Institute of Physics (AIP) Publishing.

Source: NASA

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