As my summer internship comes to a close, I was never able to get access to microscopes over here. If i had bugged a large number of people I might have, but there was so much else to do in Boston that its just as well.
That doesn't mean that I haven't been preparing though. For starts, I've accumulated a small hoard of Intel CPUs that I will hope in the near future to image. The microscope I bought a bit back wasn't as good as I thought it was, although it should still be fine for short term work coming up. I'm very grateful to be able to borrow the microscope at RPI, but for a number of reasons it is good to get my own. After searching around for a large portion of the summer, a decent quality Olympus microscope showed up on eBay finally:
What made this affordable? Two things. First, it was a first time eBay seller. Second, it coming from Thailand. So there's a bit of risk involved. Usually people don't scam on scientific items and if they do I can probably do a chargeback or possibly even a PayPal dispute. I'm not sure on their policies with other countries. If you scream loud enough, someone will usually do something if bad things happen.
The other part is I looked briefly into what it would take for me to order RFNA. From the companies I saw, they required you to be associated with a business. I'm not sure if I could play any tricks with my school, but from the business standpoint it would be very expensive. Yearly business registration fees seem to be pretty high in CA (something like $800 a year if I recall) which is not justified for this project.
Next, I've aquired some ground glass glassware, which has been on my TODO list since early high school. If I need to produce any chemicals for analysis now, it should be considerably easier and of higher quality.
I fly home for CA in two weeks. While there, my plan is to image a number of 7400 series logic chips to form a practical foundation. This should also be useful for others to study from. I could have bought some from Digikey etc, but I am thinking they probably use newer process technologies that would be harder to analyse. So, I heat gunned some off of old circuit boards and will be using those. Assuming those three weeks go well and my microscope arrives at RPI, as permitting during the school year I will start imaging the Intel chips.
Finally, I may be involved playing a small part in a commercial project coming up. While I will not be able to disclose the details of it, part of it would include them buying all of the acid and such I need to decap the chips, giving me an idea of how using commercial grade equipment contrasts. My role will be focused on the decapsulating and possibly aiding in the analysis.