ISIS is a world-leading centre for research in the physical and life sciences at the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford. Our suite of neutron and muon instruments gives unique insights into the properties of materials on the atomic scale. We support a national and international community of more than 3000 scientists for research into subjects ranging from clean energy and the environment, pharmaceuticals and health care, through to nanotechnology and materials engineering, catalysis and polymers, and on to fundamental studies of materials.
ChipIR is a state-of-the-art instrument in ISIS, and one of the world’s best accelerated-testing facilities for the effects of radiation on electronics, known as Single Event Effects (SEEs). SEEs occur when radiation causes destructive and non-destructive errors in electronic equipment, and are of increasing importance with the growing incorporation of electronics in critical-end uses. ChipIr provides a radiation environment that mimics fast “atmospheric” neutrons, for the testing of chips used in different avionics, space and ground applications. In a very short time, the ChipIr instrument has already developed a strong commercial and industrial user base across the electronics and avionics sector alongside a vibrant academic user community!
The novel NILE instrument consists of two compact accelerators producing neutrons: one 14 MeV from Deuterium-Tritium (DT) and one 2.45 MeV from Deuterium-Deuterium (DD). In both machines, deuterons are accelerated on a target (containing Tritium or Deuterium respectively) and neutrons are produced by the fusion reactions (D + T → n + α, D + D → n + 3He) . NILE is the latest addition to the ISIS instruments for the testing of single-event effects on electronics. The two generators will also contribute to the study of novel solid-state detectors, electronics such as SRAMs and AI systems, and to the research of detectors seeking to observe dark matter.
An industrial placement opportunity exists to join the group running the ChipIr and NILE instruments in evaluating the characteristics of the NILE instrument sources, using different detection techniques, and in determining the best detection technique for each instrument.
Neutrons of high energies (> 10 MeV) are the source of disruption and reliability problems in modern electronic devices, particularly in highly advanced technologies. The successful candidate will identify the effects of neutron irradiation on electronic technologies that are being increasingly used in safety critical applications, such as for automating vehicles and for the aerospace market. These technologies include SRAM memories, and potentially machine learning and AI systems. Neural networks are of particular interest: thanks to the intrinsic approximate nature of neural-network computation, some output errors are sufficiently close to the expected value that the application treats them as correct.
Through irradiation campaigns, the student will compare ChipIr and the DT neutron generator, and will examine the disruptions caused by the intermediate energy neutrons produced by the DD neutron source.
Do you enjoy problem solving? This is an excellent opportunity to work on a state-of-the-art instrument in a highly industrially relevant and rapidly developing area and to develop skills and knowledge in physics, scientific and technical computing while working with a passionate team!
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