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INTEL's "Surgery" To Fine-Tune Microchips - 8/9/2004 6:21:56 AM   

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SANTA CLARA, Calif.--Almost 15 years ago, Richard Livengood, a researcher for Intel, used an exotic machine known as a focused ion beam to painstakingly deposit a missing wire on the surface of a 486-microprocessor chip.

The chip was then placed into a personal computer, which, to the astonishment of Livengood and a small group of Intel engineers, booted Microsoft's Windows operating system without a hitch.

The technique, now referred to as silicon nanosurgery and routinely used at nine Intel chip factories around the world, has completely transformed the way modern computer chips are developed.

In a building next to Intel's corporate headquarters here, the focused ion beam technology is now employed--often around the clock--as part of an arsenal of microimaging and "surgical" tools used to locate design flaws and performance bottlenecks and make changes in circuit wires that are frequently no more than several hundred atoms in width.

In a cluster of windowless rooms known as the debug lab, the company also uses lasers and photo detectors, often aimed at single transistors.

Source : NYT
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