Methodology for radiation-tolerant integrated circuits


Packaged telecommunication ASIC designed using DARE platform

Technology abstract

Apart from being used in space sector, radiation-tolerant integrated circuits are required in medicine, nuclear industry and particle physics research.

The technology provider offers its expertise in designing solutions based on the available building blocks as well as in developing custom-defined blocks or even porting the concepts to new technologies for specific needs.

Technology Description

The Belgian research institute imec, with extensive expertise in nanoelectronics, developed dedicated platforms for designing radiation-hardened application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs).

The DARE platforms (Design Against Radiation Effects) are a combination of:

  • digital standard cell libraries developed on several technologies (0.18um UMC, 0.18 XFAB ...)
  • Re-useable analog blocks in those technologies
  • A design methodology to mitigate radiation effects.

Micro-electronics used in space are susceptible to ionizing radiation and single event effects. These effects can cause functional errors and catastrophic failure of the components. The lifetime and reliability of microelectronics in high-radiation environments can be improved by using layout- and circuit based hardening techniques.

The developed DARE platforms provide radiation hardened by design cells and design methodology support to create radiation hardened microelectronic components. It includes digital standard cell libraries fit for a synthesis and Place & Route flow, pre-made analog blocks and the methodology support for creating additional analog functionality. Components radiation-hardened with DARE techniques are tolerant to single-event effects (single-event latch-up, single event upsets and single event transients) and are hardened against total ionizing dose.

Innovations & Advantages

DARE platforms are built using commercially available non-US technologies (including e.g. a CMOS imager .18 technology from UMC), brokered by imec; ensuring access to the technology. This gives benefits for the price of manufacturing as well as availability of cheap Multi Project Wafer runs for prototyping.

Using these technologies is the basis of a sustainable supply chain for radiation hardened ICs.

The technology provider has the flexibility to design analog, digital and mixed signal ASICs and can adapt the building blocks or (help to) design new ones according to the customer requirements. Assistance is offered in advise on design, design services and managing the manufacturing and qualification process of the ASICs. 

Current and Potential Domains of Application

The technology is currently used in chips for satellites (e.g. for telecommunication applications).

Potential earthbound applications that can benefit from the robustness of the radiation-hardened integrated circuitry are

  • Nuclear industry
  • High-energy physics research
  • Medical domain (equipment that works with ionizing radiation: X-ray imaging devices, tomographs)
  • Civil X-ray applications (security scanning devices)

Any other application in need of radiation hardness.