Surviving in Venus-like conditions is near impossible, even for machinery. The surface temperature is about 860 degrees Fahrenheit and the carbon dioxide-rich air has an atmospheric pressure about 90 times that of Earth. Just moving around on Venus would feel as if you were under water and deep underground, if the heat didn’t already obliterate your equipment. NASA, however, may have found a novel solution in the form of more resistant electronics.
The new circuitry, announced yesterday with research published in the journal AIP Advances, can withstand the planet’s conditions for up to 521 hours, or about 100 times longer than the previous Venus mission electronics. “We demonstrated vastly longer electrical operation with chips directly exposed — no cooling and no protective chip packaging — to a high-fidelity physical and chemical reproduction of Venus’ surface atmosphere,” said Phil Neudeck, a lead electronics engineer on the project, said in a statement. “And both integrated circuits still worked after the end of the test.”
The breakthrough opens the door for multi-week Venus missions that could allow electronics to gather data and monitor conditions for days instead of just hours. The circuits may also have important non-space applications like helping reduce emissions in aircraft engines used here on Earth. Yet getting modern tech back on Venus, which hasn’t had a landed mission since the 1984 launch of the Soviet Vega 2 probe, is surely the most exciting possibility on the horizon.