How do I open a computer chip?
August 25, 2004 11:39 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to open up a defunct computer chip to photograph it under a microscope and inspect the city therein. Has anyone done this? How do I pry the tiny solid state thing open without destroying its beauty?
posted by kk to Technology (5 answers total)
Get yourself an EPROM. They have a clear window and you can actually see the chip through it.
posted by golo at 12:23 PM on August 25, 2004

I think prying open is almost guaranteed to destroy the beauty within. The EPROM idea is good advice but if you in particular want to see the insides I'd recommend either milling it slowly or trying to disolve the package in a solvent (maybe acetone)?

One other option is to hit ebay, you can get undiced wafers of failed chips fairly cheaply. Put them in a shadow box and they make nice art.
posted by substrate at 12:34 PM on August 25, 2004

I've used them in art and craftwork before they came out with circuit board binders and such, but there are a few sites i know i had that have hidden animals and messages in the chips and boards.
posted by ethylene at 1:02 PM on August 25, 2004

Ethylene is referring to The Silicon Zoo which is discussed here. The larger site devoted to microscopy in general has much more than pictures of Snoopy hidden on microchips. We've also previously discussed their photos of beer, but they have pharmaceuticals, food and too much else to name. Relevant to your question there is the Chip Shots gallery of microprocessors. And there are some pretty pictures in the Computer Parts gallery.

There are also a number of articles in the Silicon Zoo section that discuss the techniques that they used. I didn't read any of them and might not understand them if I tried, but they might be a good starting point for your education.
posted by stuart_s at 1:16 PM on August 25, 2004

Response by poster: I think I'll try grinding it off. I'll report on how it goes.
posted by kk at 4:49 PM on August 26, 2004

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