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3D X-ray Tech for Easy Reverse Engineering of ICs

Researchers map an Intel processor down to its transistors

3 min read
Image: Mirko Holler
Tower of Ptychograpy: Scientists used X-ray ptychography to image the insides of this section of an Intel processor.
Image: Mirko Holler

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 to reverse engineer them or check that 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.

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The Transistor at 75

The past, present, and future of the modern world’s most important invention

2 min read
A photo of a birthday cake with 75 written on it.
Lisa Sheehan
LightGreen

Seventy-five years is a long time. It’s so long that most of us don’t remember a time before the transistor, and long enough for many engineers to have devoted entire careers to its use and development. In honor of this most important of technological achievements, this issue’s package of articles explores the transistor’s historical journey and potential future.

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