Dr. Hübner explaining how the TEM works

Did You Know…

…that ZEISS Makes Atoms Visible?

This is made possible by the current prototypes of electron microscopes. Three of them now stand in a brand-new electron microscopy center at the Fraunhofer Institute for Non-Destructive Testing (IZFP) in Dresden, Germany. Here, ZEISS is collaborating with the IZFP to continue further development of these electron microscopes. Aside from Dresden, comparable systems only exist in the German city of Bonn and at Harvard University.

In Dresden, they are not being used for basic research, but rather to conduct extremely detailed microchip inspections. The structures of these electrical components of computers, cell phones, cars, and many other products are becoming smaller and smaller, some of them now sporting widths of just 22 millionths of a millimeter. By comparison, a human hair is about 2,000 times as thick. The biggest problem at the moment is not the actual production of the chips, but carrying out quality assurance. Since there are around 600 production steps needed to make a single microchip – a process that takes days or even weeks to complete – it is very important to detect and eliminate errors early on.

And yet chips are not only getting smaller, but more and more complex as well. Developers are now working on three-dimensional microprocessors in which various layers are superimposed. It is particularly with this in mind that the researchers at the Dresden institute are developing and testing new analytical and testing methods with the aid of electron microscopes. If these structures can be successfully implemented in production, this will be a true technical revolution. The probable upshot of this would be considerable improvements in computer and cell phone performance as well as in the efficiency of household appliances and production machinery.

18 May 2010

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