Posted on 21 September 2016
Traditionally, manufacturers have used cross-sectional transmission electron microscopy to look for defects in devices, specifically around junctions inside a device where one metal diffuses with another. This involves a slicing and milling process – potentially causing more damage and exposing mechanisms to harmful oxidisation.
Now, for the first time, Professor Atsufumi Hirohata from York’s Department of Electronics has trialled an alternative non-destructive technique using a scanning electron microscope.
As most electronic devices can often contain over 40 layers of components, this new method allows precisely controlled electrons to scan a device and produce a microscopic image in nanometres.
This process is much faster than cross-sectional methods, taking only 10 minutes to one hour as opposed to three or four days. Since electron microscopes are also a standard tool in most labs, this method is considerably cheaper and more accessible.
Professor Hirohata said: “Our finding allows us to observe the inside conditions below the surface of a device, without requiring any slicing or milling that can cause damage. Being able to evaluate the inside conditions without breaking a device apart is very useful, as it allows us to image any intrinsic pinholes, voids and contamination hidden from the surface.
“This new technique provides a quicker, more cost-effective alternative to current cross-sectional methods, and could improve the production process for multiple industries such as electronics and medical manufacturers.”
Professor Hirohata and his team have applied for a patent on this imaging technique, and hope to roll the method out across manufacturers worldwide.
Non-destructive imaging of buried electronic interfaces using a decelerated scanning electron beam is published in Nature Communications.
This work has been carried out in collaboration with JEOL UK and will be further developed in the York JEOL Nanocentre. For further information visit: https://www.york.ac.uk/nanocentre/ and http://www.jeoluk.com/Home.aspx