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As a radiation particle blasts through an electronic circuit, it leaves behind a trail of ions. The ions disrupt the flow of electricity in the circuit, causing the circuit to malfunction.
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Original artwork by Windows to the Universe staff.

Radiation Can Damage Electronics

Radiation can damage electronic circuits. Radiation can also cause electronics to malfunction.

Radiation can damage the materials used in electronics over time. That can make the electronics wear out sooner. For example, solar panels used on spacecraft make less electricity as they get older. The radiation in space slowly degrades the solar panels.

Radiation can also disrupt the flow of electricity in electronic circuits. This can cause the electronics to send "phantom commands". It can also change the information stored in a computer's memory circuits.

The effect of radiation on electronics is a big deal for people who build spacecraft. Spacecraft use a lot of electronics. Spacecraft are also exposed to more radiation than most machinery on Earth.

Last modified July 14, 2009 by Randy Russell.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA