First place went to this charming image, which looks like a silhouette of an apatosaurus on a small, rocky planet. The planet is a ball of solder made of a mixture of tin and lead, and the silhouette is an anomalous patch of pure lead on the surface.
Photo:Image: Rudolf A. Sia
The melted ends of these gold wires protruding from a semiconductor look like bonsai trees sitting atop a platform. This image took second place.
Photo:Image: Stefan Waginger
Using a high-powered microscope to inspect a wafer revealed the pattern in the third-place image, shown on the right. The analyst realized that it bore a striking resemblance to the most massive flower in the world, the rafflesia.
Photo:Image: Tong Yan Tee
This odd knob was not a cause of failure—it was actually created during a chip autopsy. For dissection, the top layer of the chip was bombarded with ions and etched away. By sheer chance, the ions carved out a small stump with an upside-down acorn on top.
Photo:Image: Julien Goxe
This contaminated substrate was subjected to elemental analysis aimed at locating sodium, chlorine, and potassium. As it turns out, the potassium was distributed in the “branches” of the fernlike image, and the sodium and chlorine were distributed in the “leaves.”
Photo:Image: Mary Grace C. Raborar
This growth, which the photographer thought looked like a “pretty dangerous cactus,” is the sulfide corrosion of an exposed copper trace. The chip it came from had been hanging out in a sulfur-rich environment.
Photo:Image: Huan Gim Chan
For a quality-assurance test, this radio-frequency device was put into an autoclave at high temperature, pressure, and humidity. The cap covering the device membrane failed and moisture infiltrated, causing the splotches and branches of corrosion seen in the image.
Photo:Image: Tan Ewe Chhong
The little compartments here are the isolation walls that separate the active devices in this silicon die. The image reminded the photographer of the song “Little Boxes,” by Malvina Reynolds.
Photo:Image: Adrian Laroche
When the photographer used a focused ion beam to cut into this partially fabricated chip, she thought the result looked like rows of apartments. The "windows" are cross-sections of strips of metal that were layered onto the silicon to convey current, and the separations between "buildings" are interconnects that can link up to other components.