Many different applications of X-rays are known from everyday life. For example, at airports or in medicine X-rays enable fortunately non-destructive views into objects.
In today’s nanotechnology however, X-ray microscopes have reached their limit, because for once the structures are very small, and because on the other hand, the contrast is quite weak. For those reasons, the characterization of microchips has been conducted using electron microscopes so far. However, in order to so, the chip needs to be cut open.Using a new X-ray-microscope that has been developed at the Institute for Structure Physics at Technical University of Dresden, in cooperation with the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, France, it is now possible to examine smaller structures within microchips without having to prepare the chip in any way. Until now this was not possible, for the fine conducting paths and components could not be resolved in conventional radiographs and were almost transparent due to the radiation’s high penetration power.
In the new microscopic technique, the so called Ptychography, the chip is being scanned with a highly collimated X-ray. At each of the grid’s points, the scattered distribution of the rays is being quantified behind the probe. These images contain information about the small structures within the probe’s lit-up area. From this data, a computer can calculate the probe’s structure with high resolution.
A even higher resolution and better contrast can be attained with this technique solely by elongating the exposure time. Resolutions up to 10 nanometers should be possible.