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Noise filtering of scanning-electron-microscope images for accurate analysis of line-edge and line-width roughness

[+] Author Affiliations
Atsushi Hiraiwa

Waseda University, Institute for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, 513 Waseda-tsurumaki, Shinjuku, Tokyo 162-0041, Japan

Akio Nishida

Renesas Electronics Corporation, 751 Horiguchi, Hitachinaka, Ibaraki 312-8504, Japan

J. Micro/Nanolith. MEMS MOEMS. 11(4), 043010 (Nov 30, 2012). doi:10.1117/1.JMM.11.4.043010
History: Received June 22, 2012; Revised October 31, 2012; Accepted November 9, 2012
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Abstract.  The control of line-edge or line-width roughness (LER/LWR) is a challenge, especially for future devices that are fabricated using extreme-ultraviolet (EUV) lithography. Accurate analysis of the LER/LWR plays an essential role in this challenge and requires the noise involved in scanning-electron-microscope (SEM) images to be reduced by appropriate noise filtering prior to analysis. To achieve this, we simulated the SEM images using a Monte Carlo method, and detected line edges in both experimental and theoretical images after noise filtering using new image-analysis software. The validity of this software and these simulations was confirmed by a good agreement between the experimental and theoretical results. In the case when the image pixels aligned perpendicular (crosswise) to line edges were averaged, the variance var(φ) that was additionally induced by the image noise decreased with a number NPIX,X of averaged pixels, with exceptions when NPIX,X was relatively large, whereupon the variance increased. The optimal NPIX,X to minimize var(φ) was formulated based on a statistical mechanism of this change. LER/LWR statistics estimated using the crosswise filtering remained unaffected when NPIX,X was smaller than the aforementioned optimal value, but monotonically changed when NPIX,X was larger contrary to expectations. This change was possibly caused by an asymmetric scan-signal profile at edges. On the other hand, averaging image pixels aligned parallel (longitudinal) to line edges not only reduced var(φ) but smoothed real LER/LWR. As a result, the nominal variance of real LWR, obtained using simple arithmetic, monotonically decreased with a number NPIX,L of averaged pixels. Artifactual oscillations were additionally observed in power spectral densities. Var(φ) in this case decreased in inverse proportion to the square root of NPIX,L according to the statistical mechanism clarified here. In this way, the noise filtering has a marked effect on the LER/LWR analysis and needs to be appropriately and carefully applied. These results not only constitute a solid basis, but also considerably improve previous empirical instructions for accurate analyses. The most important lesson from this work is to crosswise average an optimized number of image pixels consulting the aforementioned equation.

© 2012 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers

Citation

Atsushi Hiraiwa and Akio Nishida
"Noise filtering of scanning-electron-microscope images for accurate analysis of line-edge and line-width roughness", J. Micro/Nanolith. MEMS MOEMS. 11(4), 043010 (Nov 30, 2012). ; http://dx.doi.org/10.1117/1.JMM.11.4.043010


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