What does radiation do to electronics that they break?



For example the Fukushima incident, I remember reading that authorities used robots to check on the damage but they didn’t survive for long. Why is this?

In: Physics

Well for one radiation can cause bits to flip when they shouldn’t in processors and memory. That’s a short term effect though and can be worked around. In some cases though turning the wrong transistor on or off at the wrong time leads to shorts damaging things from overcurrent.

The main long term problem though is with transistors, diodes, and other semiconductors. These rely on having layers of silicon that have been modified with different other elements to give them slightly different electrical properties. And on atomic level the silicon is made to be a single crystal Which means that the molecules are arranged in a perfectly regular structure.

Radiation ends up changing the physical structure of the silicon crystals by knocking them around. It can also end up damaging insulating layers and causing current leakage internal to different transistors.