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Vanderbilt group to tackle extreme conditions in space

Jun. 30, 2005, 5:47 PM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. óUnlike the spectacular movie version, real-life sun storms can‘t turn ordinary astronauts into the Fantastic Four. But they can and occasionally do incapacitate expensive and vitally important space systems, like satellites and spacecraft.

Sun storms aren‘t the only thing space-faring equipment has to cope with. When you throw in the extreme temperatures in space on top of the cosmic rays and coronal mass ejections, it gets pretty challenging up there.

Researchers with the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering are part of a team of engineers who will tackle these problems through a new NASA program to extend the performing range of computer systems despite extreme conditions of temperature and radiation.

Vanderbilt will receive a $782,850 subcontract from NASA to support the evaluation and modeling of the combined effects of radiation and temperature on microelectronic devices including computer chips. Researchers based in the Vanderbilt Institute for Space and Defense Electronics (ISDE) will join a team headed by BAE Systems in Manassas, Va., to develop new methods to inexpensively protect data-gathering equipment operating in space.

The team will develop new devices that can withstand temperatures as low as minus 230 C.

“We‘re excited to be part of this project, to leverage our radiation effects expertise on behalf of the space program,” said principal investigator Lloyd W. Massengill, professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of engineering for ISDE. “NASA will use our findings to continue to explore the surfaces of Mars and the moon, and we‘re glad to be part of that effort.”

Senior Research Engineer Michael Alles is co-principal investigator for the ISDE group. Vanderbilt professors Ron Schrimpf, Dan Fleetwood, Bob Weller, and Robert Reed are also participating in the research effort.

ISDE is internationally known for its research on the effects of radiation on semiconductor materials, devices and circuits.

Vanderbilt University is a private research university of approximately 5,900 undergraduates and 4,300 graduate and professional students. Founded in 1873, the University comprises 10 schools, a public policy institute, a distinguished medical center and the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center. Vanderbilt offers undergraduate programs in the liberal arts and sciences, education and human development, engineering and music, and a full range of graduate and professional degrees.

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Media contact: Vivian Cooper-Capps, (615) 322-2762