This tutorial provided by the J. A. Woollam Co. is an introduction to ellipsometry for anyone interested in learning more about ellipsometry and its applications. This tutorial is written with the novice in mind, but experienced ellipsometry users will also benefit from the information presented in this discussion.

What is Ellipsometry?

Ellipsometry measures a change in polarization as light reflects or transmits from a material structure. The polarization change is represented as an amplitude ratio, Ψ, and the phase difference, Δ. The measured response depends on optical properties and thickness of individual materials. Thus, ellipsometry is primarily used to determine film thickness and optical constants. However, it is also applied to characterize composition, crystallinity, roughness, doping concentration, and other material properties associated with a change in optical response.

Since the 1960s, as ellipsometry developed to provide the sensitivity necessary to measure nanometer-scale layers used in microelectronics, interest in ellipsometry has grown steadily. Today, the range of its applications has spread to the basic research in physical sciences, semiconductor and data storage solutions, flat panel display, communication, biosensor, and optical coating industries. This widespread use is explained by increased dependence on thin films in many areas and the flexibility of ellipsometry to measure most material types: dielectrics, semiconductors, metals, superconductors, organics, biological coatings, and composites of materials.

This tutorial provides a fundamental description of ellipsometry measurements along with the typical data analysis procedures. The primary applications of ellipsometry are also surveyed.