Alpha strike (engineering)

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An alpha strike is a term referring to the event when an alpha particle enters a computer processor, and modifying the data contained in that processor.[1] These can cause data corruption or system shutdown, and are becoming an increasing problem as transistor sizes are reduced.

Physically, what happens in an alpha strike is that the alpha particle excites electrons via electronic stopping power in the material, and these may disrupt the normal electronic state of a memory component. The particle can also leave permanent defects in the components via collision cascades.