MUNICH, Germany A research team of the Braunschweig university has developed a microscope for testing semiconductors at operating frequencies of up to 1000 GHz. The device generates images that combine the topology with the electrical activity of the chip.
The research group equipped the cantilevers of an atomic force microscope with superconducting Josephson contacts, explained Meinhard Schilling, head of the research group and manager at the Institute of electrical measurement technology at the university. Thus, the instrument can scan the chip surface from a distance of a few microns. While the atomic force microscope generates an image of the topology of the chip surface, the Josephson contacts detect electromagnetic fields with frequencies of up to 1000 GHz, Schilling said. Spatial resolution is 10 nanometers.
The combination of the two images can be used to check for the correct functions of the chip at transistor level. Thus, the microscope is a prerequisite for the design of new, ever-faster chip generations, Schilling explained. But it could be used for production tests as well - as soon as the industry produces such fast devices, said Schilling. According to the scientist, the new device could replace today's production test probers with a typical maximum frequency of about 70 GHz.
Chipmaker Infineon was involved in the development of the microscope. Now, the company will be able to test and optimize it for industrial adoption, Schilling said.