Petr Cizmar, Andras Vladar, Bin Ming, Michael T. Postek
Resolution is a key performance metric, which often defines the quality of a scanning electron microscope (SEM). Traditionally, there is the subjective measurement of the distance between two points on special ''resolution'' samples and there are several computer-based resolution-calculation methods. These computer-based resolution-calculation methods are much more precise than direct measurement, but none of them can currently be considered an objective way of measuring the resolution. The methods are still under development; therefore, objective testing is necessary. One approach to algorithm testing is to use simulated images. Simulated images are very useful for this purpose because they can be well-defined in all parameters unlike the real SEM images. Simulated images can be generated that closely mimic the gold-on-carbon SEM test sample images which usually consist of bright grains on a dark background. Simulation can account for edge effect, roughness of the substrate, different focusing, drift and vibration, and noise. Shapes, positions, and sizes of the grain structures are random. The simulated images can be then used for testing the resolution-calculation methods, especially for finding how the particular properties of SEM images affect the resultant instrument performance and image resolution. To support this testing, NIST has developed and made available a reference set of simulated SEM images generated using the methods described in this article.