Semiconductor-based devices called integrated circuits (ICs) are used extensively in modern electronics. However, techniques for producing 3D images of these devices are often inefficient or destructive. In this issue, Holler et al. report a method for generating high-resolution images of ICs that overcomes these problems (M. Holler et al. Nature 543, 402–406; 2017).


The authors adapt an imaging technique called X-ray ptychography. First, they scan the IC using a beam of non-destructive X-rays and observe the diffraction pattern produced at each point using high-speed detectors. They then feed these patterns into a computer program that builds a 3D image (pictured).

Holler et al. create maps of ICs that have spatial resolutions down to 14.6 nanometres, allowing smaller features to be distinguished than with usual X-ray techniques. Their work will improve IC inspection, with applications from health care to aviation.

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