The hidden art inside microchips

March 10, 2008 // 8:43 a.m.

Tags: #art #artwork #cpu #design #fpu #gpu #microchip #microphotography #vlsi

If you've ever wondered what a microchip looks like up-close, then you'll be amazed and surprised by the discovery that chip designers hide teeny-tiny works of art on the surface of common components.

The Molecular Expressions team has spent quite a few years building up a digital zoo of hidden artwork on common microchip designs. The images are so small that they are only visible via photomicrography – literally, the use of a microscope to take photographs.

There's some pretty impressive stuff hidden away in your CPU and GPU, too. Swords, migrating buffalo, a smurf, and the Playboy Bunny even makes an appearance.

Although the artwork is mostly used as a way for chip designers to show off their talents and stamp their individuality onto a chip, they can also serve a more serious purpose. Should a competitor copy your design and make their own, the artwork would be duplicated at the same time. Make the artwork personal to you or your company and you've got a sure-fire way of proving that the design is original to you.

I'll warn you now: the site is addictive. With so many images to hand, and with fascinating back stories for most, you can get yourself lost in the Lilliputian world of processor microphotography. Either that, or I need to get out more.

Do you know of any hidden designs in common components that aren't listed on the site, or perhaps you had no idea such things existed? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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