NASA Develops High-Speed Spacecraft; 20 More Years To Reach Nearest Star
Scientists of NASA and Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) invented self-healing silicon chips with nanowire transistors, which can be used in production of chip-scale high-speed spacecraft or starships.
The invention was presented before NASA expert committee on Dec. 7, 2016, at the International Electron Devices Meeting, held in San Francisco. The new transistors will be instrumental in developing chip-scale spacecraft, which can be sent to outer space to explore stars and galaxies. NASA's Dong-II Moon Company will be responsible for the development of this technology and manufacture spacecraft that can survive the radiations and heat encountered during outer space travel, reported IEEE Spectrum.
The silicon chip-based spacecraft will be able to travel 100 times faster than the presently available spacecraft and will enable space explorers to reach the nearest stars in just 20 years. The silicon chip-based spacecraft will be highly advantageous because of its self-healing nature.
Silicon chips have a high probability of getting damaged during their travel in space due to exposure to heat and high-energy radiations. These radiations cause accumulation of positively charged defects in the silicon dioxide layer around the chip, which obstructs device performance, according to Yang-Kyu Choi, KAIST.
On-chip healing can be the possible solution to ensure the maintenance and functioning of the chip-scale spacecraft. According to NASA expert Jin-Woo Han, "On-chip healing has been around for many, many years."
National Microelectronics Research Centre in Cork, Ireland, and Macronix of Taiwan's heat-induced healing of flash memory were the major milestones in the research that led the development of self-healing silicon chips. The transistors attached to the chip are designated as the "gate-all-around" nanowire transistors. They are integrated with thin nanowires, which allow passage of a limited amount of current to ensure the maintenance and functioning of the silicon chip, reported I4U News.
As of now scientists are busy in developing cost efficient silicon chip-based spacecraft that can be used for future space exploration programs. It is speculated that these high-speed spacecrafts will be ready by 2020 for future expeditions.