Conventional electronic components are prone to failure and drift when exposed to space environments, which contain harsh conditions, such as extreme variation in temperature and radiation exposure. As a result, electronic components are often shielded with heavy and complex packaging. New material platforms that leverage the radiation and temperature tolerance of wide bandgap materials can be used to develop robust electronic components without complex packaging. One such component that is vital for communication, navigation and signal processing on space exploration systems is the on-board timing reference, which is conventionally provided by a quartz crystal resonator and is prone to damage from radiation and temperature fluctuations. As a possible alternative, this paper presents the characterization of microfabricated and wide bandgap gallium nitride (GaN) surface acoustic wave (SAW) resonators in radiation environments. Ultimately, in combination with the two-dimensional gas (2DEG) layer at the AlGaN/GaN interface, high electron mobility transistor (HEMT) structures can provide a monolithic solution for timing electronics on board space systems. One-port SAW resonators are microfabricated on a GaN-on-sapphire substrate are used to explore the impact of irradiation on the device performance. The GaN-based SAW resonator was subjected to extreme temperature conditions to study the change in resonance frequency. Thermal characterization of the resonator has revealed a self-compensating property at cryogenic temperatures. In addition, GaN-on-sapphire samples were irradiated using a Cs-137 source up to 55 krads of total ionizing dose (TID). The measured frequency response and Raman spectroscopy of the GaN/sapphire SAW resonators microfabricated from the irradiated samples are presented. © 2014 SPIE.
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