Abstract

A polarization interferometric method is presented for the quantitative microscopy of topographical structures with subwavelength linewidths. A liquid-crystal phase shifter is inserted into the imaging optics of a reflected-light microscope, and the principles of phase-shifting interferometry are applied to measuring the phase and the contrast of the TE-polarized image (E parallel edge) with the TM-polarized image (E perpendicular edge) as the reference. This common-path interferometric method provides selective edge detection for line structures because the polarization difference is localized at the structure edges. Two different threshold criteria for linewidth determination are discussed: distance of the contrast minima and distance of the points of the steepest phase change. Linewidths as small as 300 nm were measured at a 635-nm wavelength. The dependence on the illumination numerical aperture, as well as on the material, the width, and the depth of the structure, is investigated both experimentally and by rigorous numerical simulations.

© 2000 Optical Society of America

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