Materials & Electrical Components Laboratory

What is its role?

Made up of more than 20 dedicated experimental facilities and hundreds of instruments overall, ESA’s Materials & Electrical Components Laboratory guarantees an optimal choice of electrical components, materials and processes for ESA missions and external projects, considering the unique environmental  challenges involved in building for space, additionally investigating failures to ensure similar issues do not occur on future missions.

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Materials and Electrical Components LabAccess the image

The Lab provides to Europe’s space community the facilities and expertise to investigate the effects of the environment on electrical components, materials and processes in support of advanced research and development, evaluation and qualification programmes and direct project support.   In the materials domain support is provided on topics such as metallic materials, polymers, ceramics, composites as well as their associated manufacturing processes, such as curing, bonding, coatings, welding, surface mount techniques as well as cleanliness and contamination effects In the electrical components domain this encompasses all aspects of reliability analysis, failure analysis and radiation effects characterisation.

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Close-up of 3D-printed titanium alloyAccess the image

In the materials domain support is provided on topics such as metallic materials, polymers, ceramics, composites as well as their associated manufacturing processes, such as curing, bonding, coatings, welding, surface mount techniques as well as cleanliness and contamination effects In the electrical  components domain this encompasses all aspects of reliability analysis, failure analysis and radiation effects characterisation.

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What services does it offer?

“Developing a mission to Mercury is not an easy undertaking, having the internal access to a state of the art laboratory with many excellent specialists & facilities is a key asset for ESA to plan for a mission with challenges never encountered before.” Uli Reininghaus (Acting Manager of ESA’s BepiColombo Mission)

Services on offer include

  • Hardware testing in simulated space environments in particular vacuum,

temperature and radiation

  • Radiation testing covering infrared (IR), ultra violet (UV) solar, x-ray, ionising, non-ionising, electron and proton
  • Inhabited environment testing (such as toxicity, flammability)
  • Ground environment (such as corrosion, sterilisation, long duration storage effects)
  • Cleanliness and contamination control, including chemical and physical analysis
  • Thermo-mechanical testing including fatigue and fracture mechanics
  • Comprehensive characterisation of component electrical parameters and
  • functionality
  • Destructive physical analysis and Constructional Analysis of electrical components
  • Non-destructive evaluation (e.g. 3D x-ray tomography, Acoustic Scanning
  • Microscopy)
  • Development and comparison of tools and standards;
  • A certification authority for space Materials and Processes (M&P) in Europe
  • In-orbit experiments and post-flight investigations
  • Technical knowledge exchanges and networking with external centres
  • Independent support for failure investigations (on-ground and in-orbit anomalies)
  • Quantification of materials properties, assessment/validation of processes
  • including electronic materials
  • Corrosion testing
  • Thermo-mechanical testing
  • Fatigue and fracture mechanics characterisation of materials
  • Residual stresses measurements (destructive and non-destructive)
  • Non-contact 3D strain/stress measurements
  • Non-contact 3D displacement analysis (including speed and acceleration)
  • Tribology (fretting and wear) testing of materials
  • Verification of Surface Mounting Technologies for space applications
  • Qualification of Printed Circuit Boards
  • Non-destructive evaluation (including X-Ray Computer Tomography, Scanning Acoustic Microscopy, Dye penetrant).

How is it equipped?

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UV test facility at ESTECAccess the image

The Lab houses a unique collection of specially-designed facilities, including:

 

  • Synergistic Temperature Accelerated Radiation Facilities (STAR I and STAR II)– allowing the simultaneous vacuum exposure of multiple temperature-controlled samples to different space radiation sources (electromagnetic and particle sources) and several in-situ measurement systems.
  • Cross 3 Facility– allowing the simultaneous (electron and/or X-ray) irradiation of temperature controlled samples under high vacuum
  • Atomic Oxygen Erosion Effects (ATOX) Facility– Producing atomic oxygen with a laser to investigate its erosion effects on temperature-controlled external samples in vacuum
  • UV/VUV Chambers – (Cross1 and 2 Facility and Accelerated UV Exposure Facility (BOF))
    –      for ultraviolet/vacuum ultraviolet (UV/VUV) exposure and thermal aging with in-situ thermal imaging of samples and residual gas analysis of contamination using a mass spectrometer
  • High Temperature Exposure System (HITES and XTES)– exposure of samples to high temperatures in high vacuum furnaces, investigating effects of long-term thermal ageing
  • Ground Storage : Humidity Test Facility– subjecting samples  to  5-95%  humidity  at temperatures up to 100°C
  • Dynamic Outgassing Facilities– Measuring the dynamic outgassing of materials or components by monitoring mass change as a function of time and temperature
  • Bake Out Facility (BOF 2)– able to perform controlled bake outs in order to reach cleanliness requirements for contamination critical missions and payloads
  • Particle Contamination Measurements– Including airborne particle counter, particle fall-out, optical and SEM particle counting, essential for cleanliness assessment
  • Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectroscopy– Determination of Molecular Organic Contamination with Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy and Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry
  • Photospectroscopy: Portable Thermo-Optical Device– Optical investigation of materials at ambient temperatures across UV-VIS-NIR-IR wavelengths 
  • Electron Spin Resonance Spectroscopy– Absorption spectroscopy applied to paramagnetic species which yields information both on their concentration and structure
  • Optical Microscopy and Scanning Electron Microscopy– down to 2 nm
  • Raman Microscopy– Fast and localised chemical analyses of samples with chemical concentrations less than one monolayer to identify substances or defect regions
  • X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy & Atomic Force Microscopy– XPS provides information on the top 5 nm of a sample surface; AFM produces atomic-scale 3D images of surfaces down to 0.1 nm
  • Contact Angle System– Measurement of various substrates and surface free energy of liquids
  • Thermal Analysis– Thermo-Gravimetric Analysis, Coupled TGA Analysis with MS/ FTIR analysis of evolved gases, Differential Scanning Calorimeter; is; Dynamic Mechanical Analysis , Dilatometer, Laser Flash Analyser and Hot Disc for thermal conductivity, diffusivity and specific heat capacity testing, Dynamic Dielectric Spectroscopy
  • Broadband Dielectric Spectroscopy– Characterising material electrical properties.3D X-ray tomography– building 3D models of components and materials from radiographic scanning techniques
  • Component electrical characterisation– using a large and comprehensive range of test equipment from DC to RF including RF accelerated test system, automated wafer test system and automated electrical parameter measurement system.
  • Space radiation simulation– using a Cobalt60 source and various other sources including  Californium252
  • Focussed Ion Beam milling– Enabling sections to be performed into semiconductor surfaces with nm resolution.
  • Confocal Microscopy- The 3D Confocal Microscope (compared to the traditionally used 2D equipment) allows the instrument to be used in a much more efficient and precise way for performing surface coating analysis and surface topography.Scanning Electron Microscopy– Revealing fine surface detail and coupled with Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy of X-rays (EDX) and Wavelength Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (WDX) to map and quantify elemental distribution.
  • Laser decapsulation– For the clean and precise opening of plastic encapsulated electronic packages.
  • Other equipment employed in electrical component reliability analysis – Bond pulltester, die shear, Particle Impact Noise Detection (PIND), shock, vibration, constantacceleration, gross and fine leak tester, test chambers for temperature cycling,humidity, endurance testing.

The Labs have more than 25 full-time staff with more than 300 years of experience, plus research fellows, young graduate trainees and stagiaires.

Who are its customers?

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Testing solar cell adhesivesAccess the image

The Labs’ expertise is made available to all ESA missions and the wider European space community.

In  preparation  for  ESA’s  Cosmic Visions missions, the Labs performed preparatory testing to decide on the types of

materials most suited to extreme environments ranging from Mercury to Jupiter.

The Lab’s research findings have also led to an authoritative database of materials, hardware and processes qualified for space applications, as well as guiding the establishment of industrial

production standards.

How do i find out more?

Contact Laboratory Manager

Ralf de Marino

ralf.de.marino@esa.int Electrical Components Laboratory

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