Atmospheric Radiation

Thread Starter


Joined May 25, 2009

Could electronic components be affected by radiation at very high altitudes in the atmosphere?

What is the minimum height where can they work fine?


Joined Mar 24, 2008
I know it can be a problem with some digital stuff, but I don't know much more than that. There was a period where ceramic cases on small 14 or 16 pin DIP chips for memory modules were slightly radioactive (no danger, just emitted an alpha particle now and then). If the particle went through a transistor held a bit then the bit would flip, causing a lot of problems for people whose data was a lot more expensive than the electronics, such as banks.


Joined Nov 9, 2007
This is a piece of string question.

Some components are adversely affected by continued exposure to radiation, some are sensitive to a single beta particle at the wrong moment.
Many more components are adversely affected in the proximity of the intense fields generated by thunderstorms.

But this is true on or under the ground as well. It is just that the atmosphere acts as a dissipation blanket, so much of the radiation, naturally incident upon the Earth never reaches the land/sea surface. So the exposure increases with height.
Exposure to thunderstorms peaks in the lower atmosphere.

So the risk depends upon the length of exposure, the shielding available and the nature of the circuit/components involved.