Standard Active Last Updated: Jul 11, 2022
ASTM E3084-17(2022)e1

Standard Practice for Characterizing Particle Irradiations of Materials in Terms of Non-Ionizing Energy Loss (NIEL)

Significance and Use

4.1 A radiation-hardness assurance program requires a methodology for relating radiation-induced changes in materials exposed to a variety of particle species over a wide range of energies, including those encountered in spacecraft and in terrestrial environments as well as those produced by particle accelerators and nuclear fission and fusion reactors.

4.2 A major source of radiation damage in electronic and photonic devices and materials is the displacement of atoms from their normal lattice site. An appropriate exposure parameter for such damage is the damage energy calculated from NIEL by means of Eq 2. Other analogous measures, which may be used to characterize the irradiation history that is relevant to displacement damage, are damage energy per atom or per unit mass (displacement kerma, when the primary particles are neutral), and displacements per atom (dpa). See Terminology E170 for definitions of those quantities.

4.3 Each of the quantities mentioned in the previous paragraph should convey similar information, but in a different format. In each case the value of the derived exposure parameter depends on approximate nuclear, atomic, and lattice models, and on measured or calculated cross sections. If consistent comparisons are to be made of irradiation effects caused by different particle species and energies, it is essential that these approximations be consistently applied.

4.4 No correspondence should be assumed to exist between damage energy as calculated from NIEL and a particular change in a material property or device parameter. Instead, the damage energy should be used as a parameter which describes the exposure. It may be a useful correlation variate, even when different particle species and energies are included. NIEL should not be reported as a measure of damage, however, unless its correlation with a particular damage modality has been demonstrated in that material or device.

4.5 NIEL is a construct that depends on a model of the particle interaction processes in a material, as well as the cross section for each type of interaction. It is essential, when using NIEL as a correlation parameter, to ensure that consistent modeling parameters and nuclear data are used to calculate the NIEL value for each irradiation.

4.6 Damage energy deposited in materials can be calculated directly, without the use of NIEL, using the Monte Carlo codes mentioned in, if all the particles involved in atomic displacement are tracked. The utility of the NIEL concept arises in cases where some particles, especially recoiling heavy ions, do not need to be tracked. In the NIEL representation, these are treated instead by means of infinite homogeneous medium solutions of the type originated by Lindhard et al. (10).


1.1 This practice describes a procedure for characterizing particle irradiations of materials in terms of non-ionizing energy loss (NIEL). NIEL is used in published literature to characterize both charged and neutral particle irradiations.

1.2 Although the methods described in this practice apply to any particles and target materials for which displacement cross sections are known (see Practice E521), this practice is intended for use in irradiations in which observed damage effects may be correlated with atomic displacements. This is true of some, but not all, radiation effects in electronic and photonic materials.

1.3 Procedures analogous to this one are used for calculation of displacements per atom (dpa) in charged particle irradiations (see Practice E521) or neutron irradiations (see Practice E693).

1.4 Guidance on calculation of dpa from NIEL is provided.

1.5 Procedures related to this one are used for calculation of 1-MeV equivalent neutron fluence in electronic materials (see Practice E722), but in that practice the concept of damage efficiency, based on correlation of observed damage effects, is included.

1.6 Guidance on conversion of NIEL in silicon to monoenergetic neutron fluence in silicon (see Practice E722), and vice versa, is provided.

1.7 The application of this standard requires knowledge of the particle fluence and energy distribution of particles whose interaction leads to displacement damage.

1.8 The correlation of radiation effects data is beyond the scope of this standard. A comprehensive review (1)2 of displacement damage effects in silicon and their correlation with NIEL provides appropriate guidance that is applicable to semiconductor materials and electronic devices.

1.9 This international standard was developed in accordance with internationally recognized principles on standardization established in the Decision on Principles for the Development of International Standards, Guides and Recommendations issued by the World Trade Organization Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee.

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Book of Standards Volume: 12.02
Developed by Subcommittee: E10.07
Pages: 5
DOI: 10.1520/E3084-17R22E01
ICS Code: 19.100