27 March 2018
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency evaluates using Panasonic’s X-GaN power transistors
© Semiconductor Today Magazine / Juno PublishiPicture: Disco’s DAL7440 KABRA laser saw.
Research Unit 1 at the Tsukuba Space Center of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in Tsukuba City, Ibaraki Prefecture, has begun evaluation and validation of Panasonic Corp’s X-GaN gallium nitride power transistors (which entered mass production in November 2016) for potential use in its development of space technologies.
“Space radiation can cause damage to electronic devices, so we need to have countermeasures,” says Research Unit 1 member Eiichi Mizuta, who is specifically in charge of electronic devices.
Most semiconductors used in space are made of silicon, but there is a limit as to how much radiation they can withstand. “We performed radiation tests with Panasonic X-GaN using xenon ions, which we often use for space evaluation,” says Mizuta. “These tests proved that the X-GaN is highly resistant to radiation. It is rare for a commercial-off-the-shelf device to be so robust against radiation, so we were really surprised.”
Moreover, Mizuta also stated that X-GaN devices enable faster switching. When applied to satellites, they can help to reduce payload mass, which makes them attractive since satellites have strict payload mass limitations. “Because GaN devices help save weight and thereby allow the weight to be used for other high-performance components, they are very effective for our space development,” he comments.
“Panasonic’s X-GaN has a high potential to become the next-generation space component,” believes Mizuta. “We hope to continue to work closely with Panasonic to develop even better devices for space.”