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The Con Artist

This unusual artwork was discovered lurking on the surface of the Hewlett-Packard PA-7100 LC microprocessor. The figure is formed by a specialized method termed "Sunken Vias" by the engineers who devised it.

Artwork similar to the Con Artist can be found in the Molecular Expressions Silicon Zoo. The Con Artist measures about 100 micrometers in height, about the equivalent of the thickness of a human hair. The photomicrograph was taken on a Nikon Microphot FX/L using a 40x objective under reflected darkfield illumination.

An interesting feature of the con artist is the unusual way this doodle was created on the chip. The vast majority of silicon artwork is created as "wireframe" metal layers on a silicon dioxide surface. The con artist was constructed in a series of small squares, much like a bitmap image. The method of using these small squares is the safest technique that engineers have developed for patterning the miniature doodles. The actual squares are really contacts (voids where a hole is produced in the dielectric medium) between two metal layers and appear as a series of slight dents in the surface of the chip.


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