Large instruments are offering unparalleled performance for advanced characterisation of electronic objects. However, access to these instruments was designed for expert users, which is frequently the case among academic researchers, but less so among industrial users. Ennio Capria, Director of Nanoelec/Carac program, sheds light on the issue.
What do the large instruments contribute to electronics R&D?
Firstly, we can explore the topography, morphology, physical properties and composition of components with extreme precision and very high resolution. Thanks to the very high penetrating power of neutrons and X-rays, it is possible to do this non-destructively, without opening them or destroying them. This is a major advantage when checking the quality of manufacturing processes, as of the R&D stage. The second area of work is to study the effects of ionizing radiation on the components and systems. We are receiving a growing number of requests in this field.
What is the advantage of the Grenoble ecosystem in this area?
In Grenoble, we benefit from the presence of extremely powerful and totally unique European research infrastructures, in particular the ILL neutron source and the ESRF synchrotron. We also have the CNRS/LPSC whose accelerator outputs high-energy neutrons. Admittedly, in 2020, the availability of the infrastructures was limited. On the one hand, the health crisis complicated access to the experiments and, on the other, our instruments underwent a large number of upgrades requiring temporary shutdowns. But, thanks to its new EBS source, the brightness of the ESRF has increased by two orders of magnitude and it now stands as the world’s most intense synchrotron source. We have installed a new instrument alongside the ILL reactor, devoted to irradiation testing, called Tenis. Finally, the Genesis source at the CNRS which produces neutrons of 2.5 and 14 MeV has enjoyed a major flux gain.
Why develop a center of expertise for radiation testing?
We are looking in particular to examine the emerging problem of loss of reliability which parallels ultimate
miniaturization and complex packagings of electronic
devices. The cause is the atmospheric radiation background noise present both at altitude and on the ground.
The aim is to give our industry a competitive edge in
the reliability sector. The large instruments are a very
powerful means for measuring the sensitivity of new
electronic technologies to ionizing radiation and neutrons, notably the atmospheric radiation background.
What problems are you studying?
For example, could artificial intelligence carried on board an aircraft fail when its computer is subjected to more intense radiation at high altitude than on the ground? How long can inexpensive memory chips withstand ambient radiation in a locomotive, a radio set, or even in our pockets? This is the type of question that we can explore with our partners and users.
As the same time, you are continuing with projects underway for several years?
The program is supporting technological developments at Nanoelec, in photonics, power electronics, smart imagers and displays. Thanks to the collaborative structure of Nanoelec, the academic and industrial research teams in the consortium have access to the characterisation capabilities of the large instruments to develop new and wide-ranging methodologies. And, for a broader community of users, the Advanced Characterisation Platform in Grenoble (PAC-G) is helping to maximize the value of this work by making it
accessible to the national and European industrial ecosystem.
What do you feel is the most motivating aspect of the program for an industrial player?
We offer a range of services, from consultancy work to executing sample characterisation experiments and analyzing data. Through us, industry can access cutting-edge characterisation tools in service mode and in complete confidentiality. We also offer access to some of the world’s most knowledgeable experts in the field of material characterisation.