X-rays Map the 3D Interior of Integrated Circuits

Home / Articles / External Non-Government

June 5, 2017 | Originally published by Date Line: June 5 on

A team of researchers based in Switzerland is on the way to laying bare much of the secret technology inside commercial processors. They pointed a beam of X-rays at a piece of an Intel processor and were able to reconstruct the chip’s warren of transistors and wiring in three dimensions. In the future, the team says, this imaging technique could be extended to create high-resolution, large-scale images of the interiors of chips.

The technique is a significant departure from the way the chip industry currently looks inside finished chips, in order to reverse engineer them or check that their own intellectual property hasn’t been misused. Today, reverse engineering outfits progressively remove layers of a processor and take electron microscope images of one small patch of the chip at a time.

The appearance of external hyperlinks on this DTIC website does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) of the linked websites, or the information, products or services contained therein. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the United States DoD.