The Secret Art Of Chip Graffiti

Chip designers have often etched whimsical imagery onto their creations, but as automated tools improved and design cycles shrank, so did companies’ tolerance for the improvised extras

11 min read
Collection of various chips showing the diversity of chip art.
Images, Top & Bottom: Michael W. Davidson/Florida State University Middle: Chipworks Inc.

Collection of various chips showing the diversity of chip art. The diversity of chip art is revealed by (counterclockwise, from top) a whale on an Allen-Bradley/Rockwell node adapter IC; Hagar of comic strip fame, found on a Nokia cell phone chip; Waldo on a MIPS microprocessor that also sported a “license plate” with the processor‘s model number and version; and a muscleman from Siemens (now Infineon) on a power controller. The muscleman and Hagar were unearthed by reverse engineers at Chipworks Inc. Images, Top & Bottom: Michael W. Davidson/Florida State University Middle: Chipworks Inc.

Mike Davidson knows art when he sees it. But he didn’t expect to see it on a microchip. One day about six years ago, the senior research engineer was quietly working away in his lab at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University, in Tallahassee, taking photographs for his annual chip-shot calendar, which features microscopic images of microchips. To fit as much of a MIPS R4000 chip as possible into a single photograph, he set his high-powered Nikon FX/L optical microscope at a relatively low magnification, between 25X and 100X. Then, to make the circuitry "pop" for a more richly detailed photo, he lit large areas of the chip with a tungsten-halogen light and increased the magnification to 600X. Suddenly, he saw a face [see photo, above].

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Engineers Are Working on a Solar Microgrid To Outlast Lunar Nights

Future lunar bases will need power for mining and astronaut survival

4 min read
A rendering of a lunar base. In the foreground are rows of solar panels and behind them are two astronauts standing in front of a glass dome with plants inside.
P. Carril/ESA

The next time humans land on the moon on the moon, they intend to stay awhile. For the Artemis program program, NASA and its collaborators want to build a sustained presence on the moon, which includes setting up a base at which astronauts can live and work.

One of the crucial elements for a functioning lunar base is a power supply. Sandia National Laboratories, a research and development lab that specializes in building microgrids for military bases, is teaming up with NASA to design one that will work on the moon.

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Trilobite-Inspired Camera Boasts Huge Depth of Field

New camera relies on “metalenses” that could be fabricated using a standard CMOS foundry

3 min read
Black and white image showing different white box shapes in rows

Scanning electron microscope image of the titanium oxide nanopillars that make up the metalens. The scale is 500 nanometers (nm).

NIST

Inspired by the eyes of extinct trilobites, researchers have created a miniature camera with a record-setting depth of field—the distance over which a camera can produce sharp images in a single photo. Their new study reveals that with the aid of artificial intelligence, their device can simultaneously image objects as near as 3 centimeters and as far away as 1.7 kilometers.

Five hundred million years ago, the oceans teemed with horseshoe-crab-like trilobites. Among the most successful of all early animals, these armored invertebrates lived on Earth for roughly 270 million years before going extinct.

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Distinguishing weak signals from noise is a challenging task in data acquisition. In this webinar, we will explain challenges and explore solutions. Register now!
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