February 27, 2024

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U.S: Identifying Multiple Defects on Microchip Circuits

Image credits: nist.gov

Computer chips with defects are the misery of the semiconductor industry. Even a seemingly slight defect in a chip containing billions of electrical connections could cause a computer or other sensitive electronic device to fail to perform a crucial job.

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have devised a method that may concurrently discover specific electrical problems in many microcircuits on the same chip by adapting an existing methodology for identifying errors.

The method may offer a new way to check the interconnected wiring of computer chips in the manufacturing process because it makes use of an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM), a reasonably affordable and widely used imaging tool.

The ultrasharp tip of an AFM is connected to a small cantilever that vibrates like a diving board. In the conventional mode of operation, scientists supply an AC (alternating current) voltage to the probe tip while it scans across parallel wires buried several micrometres (millionths of a metre) beneath the surface of a silicon chip.

The voltage difference between the tip and each wire causes an electric force that manifests as changes in the tip’s frequency or amplitude (height). A wire break or flaw will manifest as a sudden change in the vibration of the tip.

However, the Electrostatic Force Microscopy (EFM) approach of flaw detection with an AFM has a downside. The vibration of the tip is influenced not only by the static electric field of the wire under investigation but also by the voltages of all adjacent wires. These unwanted signals hinder the ability to clearly image flaws in a wire that is being scanned.

NIST researchers solved the problem by delivering AC voltages, supplied by an external generator, to surrounding wires instead of the tip. AC voltage fluctuates between positive and negative values; a graph of the voltage over time resembles a sine wave. In a single cycle, the voltage reaches its highest positive value (the peak) and then its lowest negative value (the valley).

Using this cyclic nature to their advantage, the researchers applied the same AC voltage to surrounding wires as they did to the wire being scanned, with one crucial difference: the voltages to the neighbours were perfectly out of phase. When the voltage to the wire of interest reached its maximum, the voltages to the adjoining wires were at their minimum.

Contrary to the force exerted by the scanned wire, the out-of-phase voltages exerted electrostatic pressures on the AFM tip. These opposing pressures translated to regions of high contrast on an AFM image, making it easier to differentiate the signal from the wire of interest.

The researchers showed their technique by using a test chip with four pairs of wires buried 4 micrometres beneath the surface to obtain clear and accurate photographs of flaws. The researchers also demonstrated that by customising the AC voltages given to each wire to have various frequencies, they could image flaws in many adjacent wires at the same time.

Because the technology relies on an alternating current voltage given remotely to the wires rather than the AFM, the researchers called it remote bias-induced electrostatic force microscopy.

Applying a voltage to the wires instead of the AFM tip may appear to be a minor change, but it makes a significant difference. The method does not necessitate the development of a new instrument and may be simply used by the semiconductor sector. Other approaches for detecting faults, such as X-rays or magnetic fields, are likewise highly precise but require more expensive equipment.

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Qlik’s vision is a data-literate world, where everyone can use data and analytics to improve decision-making and solve their most challenging problems. A private company, Qlik offers real-time data integration and analytics solutions, powered by Qlik Cloud, to close the gaps between data, insights and action. By transforming data into Active Intelligence, businesses can drive better decisions, improve revenue and profitability, and optimize customer relationships. Qlik serves more than 38,000 active customers in over 100 countries.

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CTC Global Singapore, a premier end-to-end IT solutions provider, is a fully owned subsidiary of ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation (CTC) and ITOCHU Corporation.

Since 1972, CTC has established itself as one of the country’s top IT solutions providers. With 50 years of experience, headed by an experienced management team and staffed by over 200 qualified IT professionals, we support organizations with integrated IT solutions expertise in Autonomous IT, Cyber Security, Digital Transformation, Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Workplace Modernization and Professional Services.

Well-known for our strengths in system integration and consultation, CTC Global proves to be the preferred IT outsourcing destination for organizations all over Singapore today.

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Planview has one mission: to build the future of connected work. Our solutions enable organizations to connect the business from ideas to impact, empowering companies to accelerate the achievement of what matters most. Planview’s full spectrum of Portfolio Management and Work Management solutions creates an organizational focus on the strategic outcomes that matter and empowers teams to deliver their best work, no matter how they work. The comprehensive Planview platform and enterprise success model enables customers to deliver innovative, competitive products, services, and customer experiences. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with locations around the world, Planview has more than 1,300 employees supporting 4,500 customers and 2.6 million users worldwide. For more information, visit www.planview.com.

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SIRIM is a premier industrial research and technology organisation in Malaysia, wholly-owned by the Minister​ of Finance Incorporated. With over forty years of experience and expertise, SIRIM is mandated as the machinery for research and technology development, and the national champion of quality. SIRIM has always played a major role in the development of the country’s private sector. By tapping into our expertise and knowledge base, we focus on developing new technologies and improvements in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors. We nurture Small Medium Enterprises (SME) growth with solutions for technology penetration and upgrading, making it an ideal technology partner for SMEs.

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HashiCorp provides infrastructure automation software for multi-cloud environments, enabling enterprises to unlock a common cloud operating model to provision, secure, connect, and run any application on any infrastructure. HashiCorp tools allow organizations to deliver applications faster by helping enterprises transition from manual processes and ITIL practices to self-service automation and DevOps practices. 

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IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and business services provider. We help clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. Nearly 3,000 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity and service.

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