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NASA's new electronics can survive the heat of Venus

The integrated circuits withstood temperatures over 730 Kelvin for hundreds of continuous hours.

An integrated circuit before (top) and after (bottom) testing.

To call Venus inhospitable would be putting it mildly. It has proven extremely challenging to study in close detail, mainly because of its surface temperature -- a mean of 735 Kelvin (462 degrees Celsius, or 863 degrees Fahrenheit), with atmospheric pressure 90 times that of Earth. The longest lander to survive on the planet was Russia's Venera 12 in 1978, which succumbed to the conditions after just 110 minutes.

There hasn't been a lander mission since 1984, but new electronics developed by NASA's Glenn Research Center could change that. The team has demonstrated the first prolonged use of electronics in Venus-like conditions.

The previous landers enclosed the electronics in thermal- and pressure-resistant vessels, which also add significant weight to the payloads. NASA's team, led by electronics engineer Phil Neudeck, developed silicone carbide semiconductor integrated circuits. When placed in the Glenn Extreme Environments Rig, which simulates Venus conditions, the circuits survived for 521 hours. This, NASA says, is 100 times longer than any previous Venus mission electronics.

"This work not only enables the potential for new science in extended Venus surface and other planetary exploration, but it also has potentially significant impact for a range of Earth relevant applications, such as in aircraft engines to enable new capabilities, improve operations, and reduce emissions," said principal investigator Gary Hunter.

The team's research has been published in the journal AIP Advances.

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