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Viewing an active electronic circuit with a scanning electron microscope

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Published on Sep 3, 2012

I used my DIY scanning electron microscope to view a 555 timer circuit while it was powered. The circuit is a simple oscillator with a very long time constant to make the changes easy to see. My plan was to view the silicon die itself, and hopefully discern changes in its internal circuitry as the oscillations occurred. As it turns out, I was only able to "see" the charge of the electrical wires going to the chip socket. There is likely a clear oxide layer that covers the silicon die, and needs to be removed with hydrofluoric acid in order to use the SEM to inspect the die itself while powered.

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