Electronic Components and Circuits for Extreme Temperature Environments.



Planetary exploration missions and deep space probes require electrical power management and control systems that are capable of efficient and reliable operation in very low temperature environments. Presently, spacecraft operating in the cold environment of deep space carry a large number of radioisotope heating units in order to maintain the surrounding temperature of the on-board electronics at approximately 20 C. Electronics capable of operation at cryogenic temperatures will not only tolerate the hostile environment of deep space but also reduce system size and weight by eliminating or reducing the radioisotope heating units and their associate structures; thereby reducing system development as well as launch costs. In addition, power electronic circuits designed for operation at low temperatures are expected to result in more efficient systems than those at room temperature. This improvement results from better behavior and tolerance in the electrical and thermal properties of semiconductor and dielectric materials at low temperatures. The Low Temperature Electronics Program at the NASA Glenn Research Center focuses on research and development of electrical components, circuits, and systems suitable for applications in the aerospace environment and deep space exploration missions. Research is being conducted on devices and systems for reliable use down to cryogenic temperatures. Some of the commercial-off-the-shelf as well as developed components that are being characterized include switching devices, resistors, magnetics, and capacitors. Semiconductor devices and integrated circuits including digital-to-analog and analog-to-digital converters, DC/DC converters, operational amplifiers, and oscillators are also being investigated for potential use in low temperature applications. An overview of the NASA Glenn Research Center Low Temperature Electronic Program will be presented in this paper. A description of the low temperature test facilities along with selected data obtained through in-house component and circuit testing will also be discussed. Ongoing research activities that are being performed in collaboration with various organizations will also be presented.