The session is part of a joint Research Council presence at the meeting showcasing leading UK research. The theme of the conference this year is “Serving Society Through Science Policy”. Dr Frost was part of a symposium called, “Cloudy with a Chance of Solar Flares: Quantifying the Risk of Space Weather” with NASA space weather expert Jonathan Pellish and Prof Bharat Bhuva from Vanderbilt University, an expert on radiation effects on electronic systems and experienced ISIS user. Together they explored the impact that neutrons generated by space weather events can have on electronic devices down on Earth.
Severe space weather is one of the highest priorities of planning strategies for natural hazards in the United States and United Kingdom. A single neutron produced by the interaction of high energy cosmic rays with the planet’s atmosphere can interfere with electronic devices on Earth and disrupt their operation, corrupt their memory, or even cause the chip to burn out. Space weather events can have devastating impacts on technologies around the world, from aircraft operations and online banking to the electronic restocking of supermarkets.
At present, disruptive space weather is confined to rare, high-impact events, but as we become ever more dependent on electronics, the forecast looks uncertain. How can we be sure of our individual risks? As space scientists gain a better understanding of the probability and scale of space weather events, neutron science is stepping up to translate that knowledge into risk factors for the electronics industry. The scientists addressed these efforts, including the development of ChipIR, a new neutron instrument that can simulate cosmic radiation to test electronic components and systems. This instrument will make it possible to quantify the potential risk of space weather events on future technology and the people using it. The scientific evidence produced by these new neutron capabilities can play an important role in informing policies related to the development of new electronics and the impact of space weather.
Dr Chris Frost inside the ChipIR instrument
More on the AAAS session can be found here: https://aaas.confex.com/aaas/2017/webprogram/Session15276.html