Los Angeles: Researchers have developed a new technique to non-destructively scan electronic chips with x-rays, an advance that may ensure the integrity of chips used in computers, or in the hardware of communication systems. The study, published in the journal Nature Electronics, noted that the technology makes it possible to validate the quality of computer chips using x-rays.
The researchers, including those from the University of Southern California in the US, noted that the technique, called ptychographic x-ray laminography, utilises x-rays to illuminate a small portion of a rotating chip placed at a specific angle.
The patterns by which the x-rays bend as they pass through the chip are measured with an array of detectors, the study noted. This data, the researchers said, is used to generate high-resolution slice images of the chip, from which 3-D models are created.
The study noted that the 3-D images are then compared with the original design to help companies or organizations looking to ensure that chips are manufactured correctly and meet design specifications.
Using the method, the researchers said that it is possible to tell how and where the chips were manufactured based on their signature features. They added that the new technique also allows for reverse engineering of circuit designs without destroying the chip.
"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," said co-author of the study Anthony F. J. Levi from the University of Southern California.
According to Levi, the technology could one day contribute to a certification process to ensure the integrity of chips part of a computer, or in communication hardware used by global businesses and governments.