Abstract

We consider the use of the ellipsometric constant Δ and the surface plasmon excitation angle θ of a metal substrate covered by a thin transparent isotropic film for the determination of the refractive index n and thickness d of the film. It is proved, using an expression for Δ(n,d) and θ(n,d) valid to first order in d, that it is in general not possible to find a unique n and d from measured values of Δ and θ. Exact calculation of Δ(n,d) and θ(n,d) for the case of a silver substrate covered by an organic thin film and 632.8-nm radiation confirms this result and establishes that the range of d where the proof applies is below ~35 nm. For a value of d of ~40 nm we find that the theoretical limit of uncertainty in n and d when both Δ and θ are known to ±0.01° is 0.01 and 0.05 nm, respectively.

© 1988 Optical Society of America

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