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Reverse Engineering

A small materials consulting company needed some advanced transmission electron microscopy (TEM) analysis done on the charge trap layers of advanced node vertical NAND flash memories. Their clients had about a month to get some results but they didn’t have access to a TEM facility.  Moreover, this type of TEM analysis requires special specimen preparation,  which is a barrier for many organizations, but where  CCMR facility managers excel. The art of transforming a tiny integrated circuit feature into an artifact-free electron- transparent lamella remains a hard-earned and little understood talent that is available at the CCMR. Even with restrictions placed on their number of hours, the CCMR staff were allowed to be on campus. Results were provided to the company within two weeks of receiving samples through the mail.

A Copper tint from Gold? That is exactly what A New York based company specializing in precision custom coatings learned from the CCMR. The CCMR was asked to reverse engineer a motorcycle visor tinting for the company. As it turned out, the copper color on the motorcycle helmet visor was actually made of several different materials deposited in very thin layers. Using a surface analysis technique called  X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), the elemental composition of the surface of the material and the chemistry of each element within a few nanometers of the surface were measured.  Another technique called depth profiling was then used to remove material layer by layer to determine the exact thickness and number of different layers involved. These analyses enabled the CCMR to demonstrate how a multilayer coating including a 25 nanometer layer of gold produced a deep long lasting copper color on a plastic visor. For a small company with limited in-house analytical capabilities, the CCMR is a valued resource able to provide advanced analytical services on an as-needed basis.

A leading communications technology company acquired a small New York State (NYS) laser maker, beginning its transition from a rapidly growing small business to a large manufacturing operation. New demands stretched the NYS company’s research capabilities. Intelligence on a competitor’s latest computer chip was needed, but the business had no means to do this in-house. They turned to the CCMR, and to a tool called a focused Ion Beam (FIB) for help.  A FIB reveals sub-surface structures by milling away the surface material in precise locations. Once exposed, the competitor’s computer chip’s features were imaged using another CCMR tool: a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM). These analyses provided valuable information that guided the design of the company’s next generation product. FIBs and SEMs are specialized pieces of equipment that are far too expensive for manufacturing companies to own and operate on a daily basis.  By leveraging the CCMR resources, industrial partners have access to the tools and expertise necessary to compete in a global market.




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