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NIST Nanoscale Dimensioning Technique Wins R&D 100 Award

Developed by Ravikiran Attota, a lead researcher in NIST's Precision Engineering Division, Through-Focus Scanning Optical Microscopy (TSOM) has applications that cut across a range of industries.

Story content courtesy of NIST

A radical, new method developed at NIST that transforms an optical microscope into a powerful three-dimensional nanoscale and microscale measurement device has won one of this year's prestigious R&D Magazine’s "R&D 100 Awards."

TSOM can be used for defect analysis, inspection and process control, critical dimension metrology, photomask metrology, overlay registration metrology, nanoparticle metrology, film thickness metrology, 3-D interconnect metrology, and line-edge roughness measurements.

The novel method uses a conventional bright field optical microscope, but rather than taking a "best focus" image, it collects 2-D images at different focal positions. A computer then extracts brightness profiles from these multiple out-of-focus images and uses the differences between them to construct the TSOM image.

"The method is relatively simple and inexpensive, has high throughput, and provides nanoscale sensitivity for 3-D measurements," says Dr. Attota. "It has the potential to save companies millions of dollars."

For more information about Dr. Attota's technique, see http://www.nist.gov/mel/ped/upload/20091118-nanoscale-measurements-with-the-tsom-optical-method.pdf.

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