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28 July 2015

NASA awards Ozark $245,000 in phase 1 SBIR grants to design SiC-based ICs for Venus Rover

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has awarded two grants totaling nearly $245,000 to Ozark Integrated Circuits Inc of Fayetteville, AK, USA (a firm affiliated with the University of Arkansas that develops ICs for remote sensing and actuation under extreme environmental conditions).

The company, which designs semiconductors at the Arkansas Research and Technology Park, will use the grants to design integrated circuits that can operate on the surface of Venus, where the temperature can reach 500°C (932°F). The two silicon carbide (SiC)-based circuits could be incorporated into the overall design of the space agency's proposed Venus Landsailing Rover, says Ozark IC's president & CEO Matt Francis.

The firm will collaborate with electrical engineering students at the University of Arkansas on one of the projects. It will also utilize the IC packaging expertise and facilities of the university's High Density Electronics Research Center at the research park.

Picture: NASA's proposed Venus Landsailing Rover.Picture: NASA's proposed Venus Landsailing Rover.

"Silicon carbide is a semiconductor that is ideally suited for the extreme environments found on Venus," says Francis. "We have many years of experience working with this semiconductor fabrication process, developing models and process-design kits specifically for this process." Francis and chief technology officer Jim Holmes have developed design procedures, tools, characterization and modeling approaches that have enabled them, in conjunction with researchers at the university, to design high-voltage electronics capable of operating at conditions beyond 600°F. "We will demonstrate the feasibility of creating these needed integrated circuits," says Francis. "We will also generate a commercial feasibility analysis based on projections of the manufacturing costs for each of these integrated circuits."

In the first NASA award, Ozark IC will address NASA's Earth and planetary science missions through the development of a reliable ultraviolet imager suited to planetary composition experiments and Earth observation in space. The imager will allow monitoring of UV signals to understand the environment on Venus as well as for UV astronomy by observing and analyzing other planets and stars.

In the second award, Ozark IC will address NASA's need for a microcontroller to provide real-time programmability for the proposed mobile lander for Venus. Alan Mantooth, Distinguished Professor of electrical engineering at the University of Arkansas, will supervise student research on this project.

The Phase I grants came through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which allows federal agencies to stimulate technological innovation in the private sector by strengthening small businesses that meet federal R&D needs. The program is also intended to increase the commercial application of federally supported research results.

See related items:

University of Arkansas wins extra $200,000 NSF grant to further develop high-temperature SiC ICs

Arkansas researchers design SiC-based ICs operable at over 350°C

Tags: SiC Power electronics

Visit: www.ozarkic.com

Visit: www.nasa.gov/directorates/spacetech/niac/2012_phase_I_fellows_landis.html

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