Radiation Hardness Assurance


Experiences with Pulsed-Laser Testing for SEEs

S. Buchner 1, J. Hales 2, A. Ildefonso 1, A. Khachatrian 1, D. McMorrow1

1 Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, DC, USA
2 KeyW Corp, Hanover, MD, USA



With access to heavy-ion accelerators limited by the tremendous demand associated with the need for single-event effects (SEEs) test facilities, increased consideration is being given to alternate facilities, such as pulsed-lasers. Pulsed-lasers are a viable option for doing SEE testing because, even though photons are fundamentally different from particles, when interacting with matter, such as a semiconductor, they both liberate electrons and holes from the constituent atoms comprising the semiconductor. The liberated electrons and holes modify local electrical potentials that can cause SEEs. This is the basis for using pulsed lasers for electrical transient testing in semiconductors, a suggestion first made and demonstrated by Habing in 1965 [1], a mere five years after the invention of the laser and seven years after the invention of the integrated circuit. It took another 22 years before interest in the pulsed laser for SEE testing was rekindled [2], [3]. The field is now sufficiently mature that several competing pulsed-laser test systems, offering turnkey operation, are commercially available.

Great strides have been made in the development of the technique from its rather crude beginnings. Instead of using cumbersome pulsed lasers for producing photons with wavelengths appropriate for single-photon absorption (SPA), with the light incident from the top side of an integrated circuit, and sensitive areas delineated using crude scanning techniques, current test systems make use of compact lasers that are capable of emitting a wide variety of wavelengths suitable for both SPA and two-photon absorption (TPA), allowing for light incident from the back side of the integrated circuit as well as the front side, and having sophisticated software for stepping motors that can scan areas with step sizes of 0.1 micron and record any type of SEE at every location.

In this talk, I will briefly discuss the differences between charge tracks produced by ions and by pulsed laser light. I will then present examples illustrating the development of the pulsed laser for SEE testing, covering a wide range of technologies and the associated single-event effects. The presentation will conclude with a description of the latest developments that promise even better fidelity between SEEs produced by heavy ions and by pulsed-laser light.


[1] D. H. Habing, "Use of Laser to Simulate Radiation-Induced Transients in Semiconductors and Circuits", IEEE Trans. Nucl. Sci., Vol. 12, No. 6, pp. 91-100, December 1965.

[2] S. Buchner et al., “Laser Simulation of Single Event Upsets,” IEEE Trans. Nucl. Sci. Vol. 34, No 6. Pp. 1227-1233, December 1987.

[3] A.K. Richter et al., “Simulation of heavy charged particle tracks using focused laser beams,” IEEE Trans. Nucl. Sci. Vol. 34, No. 6, pp. 1234-1241, December 1987.