While neutron-induced single event effects testing has become increasingly important for electronics manufacturers, there exist few facilities worldwide which are exclusively dedicated to providing SEE test services—and those which do exist all have significant limitations. Available neutron sources are typically run by either government or academic institutions, and thus, commercial manufacturers are generally given secondary concern. Available neutron sources have lead times typically measured in weeks, making aggressive test and development campaigns impractical. Such sources are typically based on accelerators and solid targets, resulting in short lifetime, expensive servicing, limited availability, and as a consequence of all these factors, high cost. Worse yet, existing neutron facilities offer very narrow, non-uniform exposure areas, meaning that the testing of large devices is difficult; instead, only piece-parts testing is practical, requiring dedicated test apparati and multiple exposures for a manufacturer to conduct a useful test campaign.
RE-Labs addresses all of these problems. We will open in Q4 2011 or Q1 2012 when we will offer testing facilities that will feature a state-of-the-art neutron generator capable of a neutron output of ~1x1010 14 MeV neutrons per second and with a isotropic linear neutron geometry of approximately 450mm in length. Neutrong Flux is anticipated to be greater than ~1x109/cm2/second and a formal characterization of the neutron output will be conducted before the opening of the lab to customers. As a result, RE-Labs will provide responsive access to its customers, giving commercial manufacturers highest priority for time-critical testing (since time-to-market is often a critical consideration).
Contrary to existing facilities our uniform-distribution neutron source will enable both piece-parts and whole-device testing. Customers can either test much larger samples than at other facilities, or alternatively, can perform “all-up” whole-device testing. This can significantly reduce the up-front effort and preparation required for testing. Neutron energy, fluence, and dose rates are uniform, so planning irradiations, designing test fixtures and understanding test results are relatively easy. Whole device testing is becoming more important than ever before, since packaging and board-level factors (such as molding compounds and solder paste, as alpha particle emitters) also contribute to SEE risk.
RE-Labs will use “mono-energetic” (single energy level, 14 MeV) neutrons for SEE testing, which offers the advantage of a known, consistent energy spectrum. While actual atmospheric neutrons span a wide range of energies, it has been shown (Normand and Dominik, 2010) that results from 14 MeV neutron testing agree strongly with results from broad-spectrum testing—that is to say, testing with mono-energetic 14 MeV neutrons is effectively as good as testing with continuum neutron sources for modern electronics. With enough market interest, we will expand our capability to include an interchangeable neutron emission module in order to offer lower energy 2.5 MeV neutrons at a rate of ~1x108 neutrons per second as well as a Co-60 gamma source for Total Ionizing Dose studies.
Future expansion in 2012 or 2011 will see a second neutron generator with an output of ~1x1011 14 MeV neutrons per second. This second generator will be configured to output neutrons isotropically from a line source of anywhere from 650mm to 5 metres contingent on market demand for neutron based SEE Testing of much larger whole systems rather than single components only.
In short: RE-Labs will provide dedicated, timely, cost-effective, and accurate assessment of neutron-induced single-event effects.
Would you like to help shape the testing conditions available at RE-Labs? Please contact us and let us know how we can best meet your current and future needs.