This article discusses some of the early uses of emission microscopy in semiconductor device failure analysis and the challenges that were overcome to make it the invaluable tool it is today. One of the impediments early on was a misconception that silicon cannot emit light when, in fact, it has several light emission mechanisms that have proven useful in electron microscopy. One such mechanism, avalanche luminescence, occurs in junctions during reverse breakdown and is useful for resolving low breakdown voltage and problems with ESD protection circuits. Other light emission mechanisms discussed in the article include forward bias emission, MOS transistor saturation, and dielectric luminescence, which is used to examine oxide test structures and detect oxide defects.

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