Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

SEM Performance Evaluation Using the Sharpness Criterion



Michael T. Postek, Andras Vladar


Fully automated or semi-automated scanning electron microscopes (SEM) are now commonly used in semiconductor production and other forms of manufacturing. The industry requires that an automated instrument must be routinely capable of 5 nm resolution (or better) at 1.0 kV accelerating voltage for the measurement of nominal 0.25?0.35 micrometer semiconductor critical dimensions. Testing and proving that the instrument is performing at this level on a day-by-day basis is an industry need and concern and is addressed in this paper. Furthermore, with the introduction of fully automated inspection and metrology instrumentation, not only does an appropriate, easy to obtain or manufacture measurement sample have to exist, but also an objective and automated algorithm developed for its analysis. Both of these have been the objects of a study at NIST and the fundamentals are discussed in this paper. In scanning electron microscopy, two of the most important instrument parameters are the size and shape of the primary electron beam and any image taken in a scanning electron microscope is the result of the sample and electron probe interaction. The low frequency changes in the video signal, collected from the sample, contains information about the-larger features and the high frequency ones carry information of finer details. In principle, if the sample geometry is known, the geometric parameters of the primary electron beam are mathematically determinable from an acquired image. The method described in this paper is based on the frequency domain representation of a scanning electron microscope image and can also be used to check and optimize two basic parameters of the primary electron beam, the focus and the astigmatism. The application of this technique to regularly check the resolution of the SEM in quantitative form will also be discussed.
Proceedings Title
Proceedings of SPIE, Metrology, Inspection, and Process Control for Microlithography X, Susan K. Jones, Editor
Conference Dates
March 11, 1996
Conference Location
Santa Clara, CA, USA
Conference Title
Standards and Calibration Methods for Critical Dimension Metrology


beam diameter, performance, resolution, scanning electron microscope, SEM, sharpness, standard


Postek, M. and Vladar, A. (1996), SEM Performance Evaluation Using the Sharpness Criterion, Proceedings of SPIE, Metrology, Inspection, and Process Control for Microlithography X, Susan K. Jones, Editor, Santa Clara, CA, USA (Accessed June 25, 2024)


If you have any questions about this publication or are having problems accessing it, please contact

Created April 30, 1996, Updated October 12, 2021