Spectral Ellipsometry is an optical technique that uses light to measure the composition and properties of thin films. Spectral ellipsometry can determine composition, roughness, crystalline nature, thickness, electrical conductivity, and other material properties.
How Spectral Ellipsometry (SE) works
Light waves can oscillate in different directions. A polarized light oscillates in only one direction. Non Polarized light oscillates in many directions. The process of transforming unpolarized light into polarized light is known as polarization (Figure 1). In Spectral ellipsometry, polarized light is shone upon a sample to measure its properties.
Electromagnetic radiation is emitted by a light source and linearly polarized by a polarizer. The light falls onto the sample. After reflection, the radiation passes through a second polarizer, which is called an analyzer and falls into the detector (Figure 2).
When light interacts with a thin film, its polarization changes. The change in polarization depends on the thickness and other properties of the material. Therefore, the properties of materials can be determined by measuring the change in polarization of light. The polarization change is quantified by the amplitude ratio, Ψ, and the phase difference, Δ.
Strengths of SE
Ellipsometry has several advantages compared to standard reflection intensity measurements:
Limitations of SE
Uses of SE
Spectral Ellipsometry is used extensively in research and development. It has many industrial applications. It applies to many different fields, from semiconductors to microelectronics and biology. It is also used in thin-film testing.
Diwan et al. studied different thicknesses of chromium on silicon, plotting the resulting ∆ and ψ values that were obtained at a single wavelength (632.8 nm), and at an angle of incidence of 70° (Figure 4) . They studied other elements too as shown in Figure 5.
Sample requirements for SE
The sample surface should be smooth and flat. The rear of the transparent sample should be rough. The thickness should be between 70 nm and 1 um. The area to be analyzed should be at least 1 x 1.5 mm.
Reference:  Diwan A. & Linford M.R. Editorial, Vacuum Technology & Coating, November 2014 issue, pages 1-7.
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