CAPS study shows more dislocation of electrons than expected when radiation hits a semiconductor chip.
Physicists used coherent acoustic phonon spectroscopy (CAPS) to study the effects of radiation on silicon circuits.
CAPS generates a pressure wave that passes through a chunk of semiconductor by blasting its surface with an ultrafast pulse of laser light.
As this happens, the researchers bounce a second laser off the pressure wave and measure the strength of the reflection.
As the pressure wave encounters defects and deformities in the material, its reflectivity changes and this alters the strength of the reflected laser light.
By measuring these variations, the physicists can detect individual defects and measure the effect that they have on the material's electrical and optical properties.
The physicists tested their technique on a layer of gallium arsenide semiconductor that they had irradiated with high-energy neon atoms.
They found that the structural damage caused by an embedded neon atom spread over a volume containing 1,000 atoms - considerably more extensive than that shown by other techniques.