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Does Your SEM Really Tell the Truth?—How Would You Know? Part 4: Charging and its Mitigation



Michael T. Postek, Andras E. Vladar


This is the fourth part of a series of tutorial papers discussing various causes of measurement uncertainty in scanned particle beam instruments. Scanned particle beam instruments especially the scanning electron microscope (SEM) have gone through tremendous evolution to become indispensable tools for many and diverse scientific and industrial applications. These improvements have significantly enhanced their performance and made them far easier to operate. But, the ease of operation has also fostered operator complacency. In addition, the user-friendliness has reduced the apparent need for extensive operator training. Unfortunately, this has led to the idea that the SEM is just another expensive "digital camera" or another peripheral device connected to a computer and that all of the problems in obtaining good quality images and data have been solved. Hence, one using these instruments may be lulled into thinking that all of the potential pitfalls have been fully eliminated and believing that, everything one sees on the micrograph is always correct. But, as described in this and the earlier papers, this may not be the case. Care must always be taken when reliable quantitative data are being sought. The first paper in this series discussed some of the issues related to signal generation in the SEM, including instrument calibration, electron beam-sample interactions and the need for physics-based modeling to understand the actual image formation mechanisms to properly interpret SEM images. The second paper has discussed another major issue confronting the microscopist: specimen contamination and methods to eliminate it. The third paper discussed mechanical vibration and stage drift and some useful solutions to mitigate the problems caused by them, and here, in this the fourth contribution, the issues related to specimen "charging" and its mitigation are discussed relative to dimensional metrology.
Proceedings Title
Conference Dates
September 29-October 1, 2015
Conference Location
Monterey, CA, US


Calibration, charging, measurements, metrology, modeling, scanning electron microscope, SEM, standards, reference materials


Postek, M. and Vladar, A. (2016), Does Your SEM Really Tell the Truth?—How Would You Know? Part 4: Charging and its Mitigation, SPIE/SCANNING 2015, Monterey, CA, US, [online], (Accessed July 21, 2024)


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Created January 19, 2016, Updated April 4, 2022