Technical Article: Radiation Tolerance of Tantalum Polymer Capacitors

Radiation Tolerance of Tantalum Polymer Capacitors
Radiation Tolerance of Tantalum Polymer Capacitors
Written By: Krystof Adamek
Environments rich in ionizing radiation create a particularly difficult functional challenge for electronic components. Spacecraft, nuclear reactors, particle accelerators, and hardened military equipment (to name a few examples) demand that their electrical systems operate correctly, even in the presence of high energy particles, photons, electrons, neutrons, protons, and the like. Such radiation adversely affects electronics in two ways: fundamentally damaging the constituent materials, and creating transient electrical signals that can impede functionality.

Mechanisms of radiation induced failure in semiconductors and other active devices have been well-studied, and methods for overcoming or preventing these failures have been developed. Passive devices like inductors, resistors, and capacitors, on the other hand, are less relevant from a radiation perspective due to their lack of semiconductor materials. That said, their tolerance to radiation is no less important, and it must be considered. This is especially true when new types of passive components are invented that have performance characteristics well suited to high radiation environments. Tantalum polymer electrolytic capacitors and Tantalum MnO2 capacitors are one such example, and demonstrating their durability for radiation hardened applications is a critical step toward their widespread adoption.