Estimating Step Heights from Top-Down SEM Images

Kerim Tugrul Arat*, Jens Bolten, Aernout Christiaan Zonnevylle, Pieter Kruit, Cornelis Wouter Hagen

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)
    46 Downloads (Pure)


    Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) is one of the most common inspection methods in the semiconductor industry and in research labs. To extract the height of structures using SEM images, various techniques have been used, such as tilting a sample, or modifying the SEM tool with extra sources and/or detectors. However, none of these techniques focused on extraction of height information directly from top-down images. In this work, using Monte Carlo simulations, we studied the relation between step height and the emission of secondary electrons (SEs) resulting from exposure with primary electrons at different energies. It is found that part of the SE signal, when scanning over a step edge, is determined by the step height rather than the geometry of the step edge. We present a way to quantify this, arriving at a method to determine the height of structures from top-down SEM images. The method is demonstrated on three different samples using two different SEM tools, and atomic force microscopy is used to measure the step height of the samples. The results obtained are in qualitative agreement with the results from the Monte Carlo simulations.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)903-911
    Number of pages9
    JournalMicroscopy and Microanalysis
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


    • 3D topography
    • height measurement
    • Monte Carlo simulations
    • SEM
    • top-down inspection


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