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NASA Plans to Send Improved Computer to Venus -- How Will it Survive?

Feb 24, 2017 10:40 PM EST
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It may be the time to stop talking about Mars and exoplanets for a second and venture into Venus. Researchers at NASA's Glenn Research Center may have finally cracked the code when it comes to understanding Venus' surface with an actual computer.

According a study published in AIP Advances, researchers have created an efficient ceramic-packaged chip by combining new transistors and silicon carbide (SiC) transistors. The new chip solves the problem of Venus' extremely hot temperatures.

Venus' hostile environment has been a major problem in studying the planet as it's not suitable for computers. According to Ars Technica, Venus is one of the most dangerous planets in the solar system. It has a surface temperature of 470 degrees Celsius and has 90 times more atmospheric pressure than the planet.

Normal silicon chips could only withstand up to 250 degrees Celsius before they stop functioning, but the new ceramic-packaged chip can withstand more than that. To test the new discovery, the researchers put the newly created chip into the Glenn Extreme Environments Rig (GEER), a machine that could mimic the temperature in Venus.

Results showed that the ceramic-packaged chip was able to sustain Venus-esque temperatures and pressures for at least hundreds of hours before shutting down. This is the first demonstration of a chip surviving Venus-like conditions without any aid and protection.

This new development is a big leap from the arrival in Venus back in 1981. A Soviet spacecraft called Venera 13 lasted for 127 minutes when it arrived on the planet, which was actually longer than its estimated survival time of 32 minutes. Unfortunately, it was eventually crushed by the enormous heat and pressure of the planet.

Sending the new chip to Venus is no joke. NASA said there are tools still needed to bring the chip and its actual data back to Earth. Meaning, further research is needed to ensure the computer's survival to and from the planet.

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