The role played by a glass substrate on the accurate determination of the optical constants and the thickness of a thin dielectric film deposited on it, when well-known envelope methods are used, is discussed. Analytical expressions for the two envelopes of the optical transmission spectra corresponding to films with both uniform and nonuniform thicknesses are derived, assuming the substrate to be a weakly absorbing layer. It is shown that accurate determination of the refractive index and the film thickness is notably improved when the absorption of the substrate is considered. The analytical expressions for the upper and lower envelopes are used to characterize optically and geometrically both uniform and nonuniform amorphous chalcogenide films. The results obtained are compared with those derived by use of expressions for the envelopes that neglect the substrate absorption. The comparison shows that overestimated refractive indexes and underestimated thicknesses are obtained when the conventional approach, in which the substrate absorption is neglected, is used.
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