A volcano named Sapas Mons dominates this computer-generated view of the surface of Venus.The simulated hues are based on color images recorded by the Soviet Venera 13 and 14 spacecraft. NASA/JPL

Venus, to put it mildly, is a pretty inhospitable place. The second rock from the sun is not only the hottest one in our solar system — with temperatures reaching up to almost 900 degrees Fahrenheit — it is also shrouded in a hellish heat-trapping atmosphere of carbon dioxide and boiling sulfuric acid, one that is so thick that it makes the pressure at the surface about 90 times higher than that on Earth.

All in all, Venus is not the kind of planet you want to be caught on with your loafers off.

That is why, the prudent course of action for those seeking to explore our not-so-friendly neighborhood planet is to send robotic probes that can land on its surface and beam back signals.

However, these missions face an obvious hurdle — simply put, Venus wastes no time in frying the brains of computers on board the landers. The record for the longest survival time for a lander on Venus is currently held by Soviet Union’s Venera 13, which lasted for just over two hours (contrast this to the time spent by the Opportunity rover on Mars — just over 13 years).

Now, scientists at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, have demonstrated the first prolonged operation of electronics in the harsh conditions found on Venus. Their research, published in the journal AIP Advances, show that these circuits can withstand the planet’s surface temperature and atmospheric conditions for a whopping 521 hours.

“We demonstrated vastly longer electrical operation with chips directly exposed — no cooling and no protective chip packaging — to a high-fidelity physical and chemical reproduction of Venus’ surface atmosphere. ... Both integrated circuits still worked after the end of the test,” lead author Philip Neudeck, an electronics engineer at the Glenn Research Center, said in a statement. “With further technology development, such electronics could drastically improve Venus lander designs and mission concepts, enabling the first long-duration missions to the surface of Venus.”

In order to achieve this breakthrough, the researchers made two key changes to the chips. First, instead of fashioning them out of silicon, which can only tolerate temperatures of up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, they used electronics based on silicon carbide — a material that retains its semiconducting properties even when subjected to high temperatures. And second, they used exotic compounds to create robust interconnects — the wires that connect the components of an integrated circuit — that can survive on Venus.

“This work not only enables the potential for new science in extended Venus surface and other planetary exploration, but it also has potentially significant impact for a range of Earth relevant applications, such as in aircraft engines to enable new capabilities, improve operations, and reduce emissions,” Gary Hunter, principle investigator for Venus surface electronics development at the Glenn Research Center, said in the statement.