Princesses may feel peas under huge stacks of mattresses, but semiconductor manufacturers have a much harder time detecting minuscule defects within the crystalline layers of their microchips. So, they have difficulty determining when something goes wrong in the manufacturing process. Now, researchers have developed a noninvasive imaging technique that lets them see deep inside a chip.
Scanning-probe microscopy, a family of techniques that can portray surfaces in exquisite detail, is routinely used for analyzing chip materials. But defects that are buried more than 5 to 10 nanometers below the surface are "pretty much impossible to see," says Vin