Voltage contrast, a phenomenon that occurs in scanning electron microscopes, produces brightness variations in SEM images that correspond to potential variations on the test sample. Through appropriate processing, voltage contrast signals can reveal an extensive amount of information about the functionality of ICs. Voltage contrast can be used, for example, to map electrical logic levels and timing waveforms from internal nodes of the chip as it operates inside the SEM chamber. This article describes the fundamentals of voltage contrast and its applications in IC failure analysis.

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