Technology 2 min read

Non-Destructive Method of Scanning Computer Chips Developed

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raigvi / Shutterstock.com

A non-destructive method of scanning computer chips would allow detection of chip defects without opening or tearing the machine apart.

A new non-destructive method of scanning computer chips can reveal defects.

Chips are an essential part of every computer. And this piece of technology has evolved over the years until we can now have them in smartwatches and smart shoes.

A single computer chip is made from silicon and metal and contains as many as a billion transistors. These pieces are perfectly aligned to create an electrical signal.

However, these numerous parts also made it challenging for manufacturers to guarantee that a transistor was without defect. In other words, it’s almost impossible to tell if a chip is defective.

Well, that’s about to change.

The researchers at the Paul Scherer Institut and colleagues at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering have teamed up to address this issue. Together, they developed a non-destructive method of scanning computer chips to ensure its fully functional.

The researchers are calling the new technique ptychographic x-ray laminography.

Scanning Computer Chips With X-rays

The new technique uses x-rays from a synchrotron to illuminate a small part of a rotating chip at a specific angle. This results in diffraction patterns, which the researchers can measure with a photon-counting detector array.

They can then use the data to generate high-resolution slice images of the chip, and create 3D renderings from these images.

At this point, they simply have to compare the 3D image with the original design to spot possible defects. By scanning their computer chips, companies can verify design specifications.

However, the new method has another advantage.

According to the researchers, you can also reverse engineer circuit designs using the new technique to understand the purpose. What’s more, the chip won’t be destroyed in the process.

Co-author of the study, Anthony F. J. Levisaid:

“The majority of a chip’s intelligence is how it is wired. It is like the connectome of a brain. By viewing a chip in detail, you can non-destructively figure out what it does. With this technology, hiding intellectual property in a chip is over.”

The researchers are now working on improving the x-ray microscope performance, as well as the imaging speed and resolution.

Read More: Computer Chip: Carbon Nanotubes Pick up the Slack

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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