MC-ORACLE: Innovative simulation tool for more reliable electronic components in space environment

Abstract

Developed by the Institute of Electronics and Systems (IES) of the University of Montpellier and promoted by the SATT AxLR, MC-ORACLE is an innovative simulation software system dedicated to the evaluation of the reliability of electronic components and systems in natural (space, atmosphere, radioactivity) or artificial (particle accelerator) radiative environments. The need for such a solution has come initially from space applications in which ionising radiation is quite high (solar wind, solar flare, cosmic radiation) but the MC-ORACLE software could also be implemented for avionics components testing under atmospheric radiation conditions.

Description

Modern electronic components are vulnerable to natural and artificial radiation, which can generate a transient current in a transistor (SET: Single Event Transient), which can spread within a logic chain and lead to misinformation. In the specific case of a Static Random Access Memory (SRAM), the transient current can create a logic gate switch, called Single Event Upset (SEU). Depending on the application, the consequences of this misinformation can be disastrous. In order to increase the safety of equipment and people, the risk assessment and characterization of electronic components through the development of reliable simulation tools has become essential.

Developed by the team RADIAC (Radiation & Components) of the Institute of Electronics and Systems (University of Montpellier) and promoted by the SATT AxLR, MC-ORACLE is an innovative simulation software system dedicated to the evaluation of the reliability of electronic components and systems in natural (space, atmosphere, radioactivity) or artificial (particle accelerator) radiative environment. Since RADIAC is deeply involved in space projects, MC-ORACLE has been initially developed for the simulation of electronic components in the space environment where ionising radiation is quite high (solar wind, solar flare, cosmic radiation).

The MC-ORACLE simulation software analyses the error rate (SEU) of SRAM Memories (flip-flop) and the transient currents generated by the particles in the electrodes of the component. This tool can address the most problematic particles (neutrons, protons, ions, alpha) for different technologies. The innovative aspect lies in the fact that the simulation is only based on the physics and no longer on semi-empirical models. It is then possible to change physical quantities such as the supply voltage, electrode dimensions, geometry of the structure, type of materials. This implies a multi-physics and multiple-scale approach perfectly handled by MC-ORACLE.

Innovations and advantages of the offer

State of the art: The evaluation of the radiation resistance and failure rate of electronics generally occurs through the irradiation of the component with a particle beam (usually neutrons for atmospheric applications and heavy ions for space environments). The main disadvantages of this procedure are: the need to build its own test bench, a prohibitive cost (25-30k€) for a standard characterization and above all, the need to have at least a prototype of the component to test.

Innovative Aspects: The simulation of the effect of ionising radiation on the components offers faster implementation (several minutes to several hours), the possibility to analyse the reliability of an electronic system before fabrication, as well as evaluating the impact of any type of radiation, at low cost. MC-ORACLE is a Monte Carlo tool and simulates the interaction of a large number of particles within a component and implies a multi-physics and multiple-scale approach. The main advantages of the technology are:

  • A simulation based on the equations of particles physics and not on semi-empirical models
  • Short computation time (optimisation, pre-computation)
  • Ability to address the most problematic particles (neutrons, protons, ions, alpha)
  • Possibility to change physical quantities such as supply voltage, electrodes dimensions, geometry of the structure, type of materials

The tool has already been tested on 150 nm, 90 nm and 65 nm technologies.

Application

The MC-ORACLE simulation tool targets the domain of embedded systems in general:

  • Foundries: the tool offers the possibility to enter numerous parameters (materials, electrical properties, geometry) in order to anticipate the sensitivity of the electronic component to radiation before fabrication.
  • Editors of electronic CAD software: with a better evaluation of the reliability of the component under radiation, the designer can optimize the amplitude of the current on the electrodes and suggest radiation-hardened solutions
  • End-users: the software can help end-users in the characterization of the reliability of a given system regarding a dedicated radiative environment

Indirectly, MC-ORACLE targets the following markets:

  • Avionics components manufacturers
  • Transport (railway and automotive)
  • Energy (Nuclear Environment)
  • Any system requiring radiation hardening

Description of Space Heritage

The department RADIAC (Radiation & Components) of the Institute of Electronics and Systems (University of Montpellier) specialises in the development of tools dedicated to the evaluation of the reliability of electronic components for a given application in a given environment. These developments started in 2000 with a thesis funded by the Aerospatiale and led to multiple collaborations with EADS. The department RADIAC is also deeply involved in the creation of the University Space Center of Montpellier-Nîmes dedicated on nano-satellite activities.

MC-ORACLE has been initially developed for the simulation and reliability evaluation of space components under high ionising radiations such as solar wind, solar flare, and cosmic radiation.

Category
Computer Hardware & Software
Reference No.
TDO0212
Could this technology benefit your business? Please contact Benoit Rivollet Tech2Market (France)
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