What are Radiation-hardened electronics?

Radiation-hardened electronics, also called rad-hard electronics, are electronic components (circuits, transistors, resistors, diodes, capacitors, etc.), single-board computer CPUs, and sensors that are designed and produced to be less susceptible to damage from exposure to radiation and extreme temperatures (-55°C to 125°C).

They largely perform the same functions as non-hardened equivalent electronics, but have been manufactured and tested to resist different types of radiation damage that can occur in space, during high altitude flight, at scientific research facilities, and in nuclear reactors.

As part of the "hardening" process, rad-hard electronics are also shielded in a layer of depleted boron and mounted on insulating substrates, instead of on conventional semiconductor wafers. This makes them able to withstand significantly more radiation than commercial-grade chips. All of these efforts are to prevent physical damage – breaking or melting –  as well as logic damage, such as data losses or communications and processing errors that could make equipment malfunction.

Because of their extremely low failure rates across several years in harsh radioactive and similarly dangerous environments, rad-hard electronics are often used by space agencies, private spaceflight companies, the defense community, and research scientists to assure consistently reliable performance and longer service life.


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