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.

Is Your Scanning Electron Microscope Hi-Fi?



Andras Vladar, Michael T. Postek, S Davilla


The scanning electron microscope (SEM) historically has been used mainly as an image-producing device and, in spite of certain obvious and sometimes serious electronics problems, serves in this function as an acceptable and effective instrument for many applications. Today, the SEM is being used in areas other than imaging. The major area of current use and of concern of this Workshop paper is SEM-based metrology. SEM-based metrology is of great interest to the micro-electronics industry, and for this industry, measurement accuracy and repeatability issues have become paramount. This paper presents a short description of some of the electrical properties of different components of an SEM which can seriously affect its performance as a metrology tool. These include the electronics associated with the formation of the electron beam and scanning circuitry, the electron detectors, the video signal chain, and the analog-to-digital (AD) and digital-to-analog (DA) conversion circuits. This discussion relates the possible influences generated by these components to the detected and observed signal. This paper also includes the concept that computer modeling of the SEM image, with Monte Carlo or other techniques, must be done completely in order to be meaningful. Modeling just the electron beam/sample interactions alone only deals with a portion of the issues. Any modeling must include the shortcomings of the real, non-ideal measuring tool. By knowing the electrical characteristics and possible imperfections caused by the different pats of an SEM, a more accurate comparison of the measured and calculated signal can be made. One practical example is presented which demonstrates how it is possible to improve the agreement between calculated and measured signals.


image-grade SEM, metrology, metrology-grade SEM, modeling, Monte Carlo, SEM, SEM characteristics


Vladar, A. , Postek, M. and Davilla, S. (1996), Is Your Scanning Electron Microscope Hi-Fi?, Scanning (Accessed April 21, 2024)
Created December 6, 1996, Updated October 12, 2021