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NASA to Develop Electronics that Can Survive the Heat in Venus

Feb 10, 2017 09:40 PM EST
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NASA is moving further into its deep space exploration programs that aim to reach the outskirts of the Solar System. Part of the mission is to explore Venus but in order to do that, engineers have to design devices that could withstand the harsh and hot environment on Venus.

Unlike Mars, Venus is considered as the hottest planet in the Solar System, making it more difficult to explore compared to the red planet. The extreme conditions made it impossible for computers to survive. But scientists are about to change that as a new kind of chip that can withstand the heat and a new type of lander/rover that could land safely and operate on Venus are being developed. The pressure on the surface of the planet is about 92 times more compared to Earth with an average temperature of 450 degrees Celsius (842 F), according to Forbes.

"If you look at Mars missions, there've been rovers on the surface getting all sorts of scientific data," Philip Neudeck, an electronics engineer from the NASA Glenn Research Center said in an interview with Gizmodo. "That dataset is totally missing from Venus, and that's because the electronics don't function on Venus."

The new chips are made of silicon carbide to enable it to keep its semiconductor attributes. This material ensures that electricity will flow and the device will function and won't get fried due to the harsh environment,

A mission to Venus is slated to occur in 2023, but that will depend on the mechanism that is being developed in order for the devices to survive on the planet that has above 800 degrees Fahrenheit. NASA has been working on the mission especially in the process of developing high-endurance devices.

"Any mission you do requires functioning electronics, communications, and power," Rodger Dyson, principal investigator for the mission in Venus said in a press release. "Just a few years ago, we didn't have the technology that could survive on the surface very long. We've made advancements in the last three years, but it all needs to be tested."

Researchers are using the NASA Glenn Extreme Environments Rig (GEER) that can recreate a Venus-like environment to test the chips. After testing, the chip survived the tests and managed to function for 21 days. The tests will help determine the successful design of Venus landers and rovers that are vital for a successful planetary exploration.


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