Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Nanoscale X-ray Tomography of Integrated Circuits using a Hybrid Electron/X-ray Microscope: Results and Prospects



Nathan Nakamura, Paul Szypryt, Joseph Fowler, Zachary H. Levine, Daniel Swetz


Accurate characterization of subsurface features in integrated circuits (ICs) is essential for defect detection, quality assurance, and supply chain security. The interiors of ICs are challenging to probe post-manufacturing due to the presence of many close-packed and nanoscale subsurface features of multiple material compositions, often spread over square millimeters of chip area. X-ray computed tomography (CT) has historically been a powerful tool for 3-dimensional imaging of buried features, but modern instruments are unable to achieve the spatial resolution, elemental sensitivity, or scan areas required to fully characterize ICs. Advanced imaging of ICs is possible at synchrotron beam-lines, but such methods are not easily accessible and could not reside directly at a semiconductor foundry or security agency. A need exists for compact, laboratory-scale instrumentation that can image nanoscale features in 3-dimensions over large areas, with sensitivity to feature size, shape, and composition. We describe an approach to x-ray CT which merges a focused electron beam with high magnification system geometry and a combination of high efficiency and high resolving power x-ray detection. This achieves nanoscale, element-sensitive imaging of ICs in a compact instrument footprint. A proof-of-concept has been demonstrated and current imaging capabilities are discussed. The path forward is described, with opportunity for advances in spatial resolution, imaging speed, and spectral imaging capabilities beyond conventional laboratory CT instruments.
IEEE Xplore Digital Library


Integrated circuits, x-ray computed tomography, nanoscale imaging


Nakamura, N. , Szypryt, P. , Fowler, J. , Levine, Z. and Swetz, D. (2023), Nanoscale X-ray Tomography of Integrated Circuits using a Hybrid Electron/X-ray Microscope: Results and Prospects, IEEE Xplore Digital Library, [online], (Accessed May 26, 2024)


If you have any questions about this publication or are having problems accessing it, please contact

Created November 20, 2023, Updated May 2, 2024