Michael T. Postek and András Vladár , NIST, Gaithersburg, MD
SCANNING Vol. 35: 355-361 (2013)

Summary: The scanning electron microscope (SEM) has gone through a tremendous evolution to become a critical tool for many and diverse scientific and industrial applications. The high resolution of the SEM is especially suited for both qualitative and quantitative applications especially for nanotechnology and nanomanufacturing. Quantitatively, measurement, or metrology is one of the main uses. It is likely that one of the first questions asked before even the first scanning electron micrograph was ever recorded was: “… how big is that?” The quality of that answer has improved a great deal over the past few years especially since today these instruments are being used as a primary measurement tool on semiconductor processing lines to monitor the manufacturing processes. The well‐articulated needs of semiconductor production prompted a rapid evolution of the instrument and its capabilities. Over the past 20 years or so, instrument manufacturers, through substantial semiconductor industry investment of research and development (R&D) money, have vastly improved the performance of these instru- ments. All users have benefited from this investment, especially where quantitative measurements with an SEM are concerned. But, how good are these data? This article discusses some of the most important aspects and larger issues associated with imaging and measurements with the SEM that every user should know, and understand before any critical quantitative work is attempted.

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