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.
Click on image for full size
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.

You might also be interested in:

Satellites and Robotic Spacecraft

Satellites and robotic spacecraft are crucial to space exploration. They let us explore space without having to support life, and can travel longer, in more dangerous areas, and at lower risk than manned...more


Some materials give off radiation. We call those materials "radioactive". Radioactive materials are often dangerous to people and other living things. There are many different kinds of radioactive materials....more

Electric Power Delivery System

When you switch on a light in your house, you are using the electrical power system. A power plant generates the electricity. Electrical power travels along wires to your house. The light switch channels...more

The Role of Voltage Transformers in Our Electric Power Systems

Transformers are devices used in electrical circuits to change the voltage of electricity flowing in the circuit. Transformers can be used either to increase the voltage (called "stepping up") or decrease...more

Voltage Transformers in Electric Circuits

Transformers (sometimes called "voltage transformers") are devices used in electrical circuits to change the voltage of electricity flowing in the circuit. Transformers can be used either to increase the...more


PAH is the short name for "Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons". Thank goodness this molecule has a short name! These are long strings of carbon atoms which form a ring. (That accounts for the "cyclic" and...more


Acids are well known as substances capable of dissolving things. If you've ever gotten some battery acid on your clothes and had a hole develop in a couple weeks you'll know what we mean. In this regard,...more


Like an acid, a base is a substance capable of dissolving things. Here is a scientific explanation of what a base is: A base is a substance which accepts a proton from another species in a reaction. (Here,...more

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