This article appeared in Fermilab Today on July 24, 2014.
Fermilab engineer Jim Hoff has invented an electronic circuit that can guard against radiation damage. Photo: Hanae Armitage
Fermilab engineer Jim Hoff has received patent approval on a very tiny, very clever invention that could have an impact on aerospace, agriculture and medical imaging industries.
Hoff has engineered a widely adaptable latch — an electronic circuit capable of remembering a logical state — that suppresses a commonly destructive circuit error caused by radiation.
There are two radiation-based errors that can damage a circuit: total dose and single-event upset. In the former, the entire circuit is doused in radiation and damaged; in an SEU, a single particle of radiation delivers its energy to the chip and alters a state of memory, which takes the form of 1s and 0s. Altered states of memory equate to an unintentional shift from logical 1 or logical 0 and ultimately lead to loss of data or imaging resolution. Hoff’s design is essentially a chip immunization, preemptively guarding against SEUs.
“There are a lot of applications,” Hoff said. “Anyone who needs to store data for a length of time and keep it in that same state, ...