Low energy ion-beam sputtering of GaSb results in self-organized nanostructures with the potential of structuring large surface areas. Characterization of such nanostructures by optical methods is studied and compared to direct (local) microscopic methods. The samples consist of densely packed GaSb cones on bulk GaSb, approximately 30, 50, and in height, prepared by sputtering at normal incidence. The optical properties are studied by spectroscopic ellipsometry, in the range , and with Mueller matrix ellipsometry in the visible range, . The optical measurements are compared to direct topography measurements obtained by scanning electron microscopy, high resolution transmission electron microscopy, and atomic force microscopy. Good agreement is achieved between the two classes of methods when the experimental optical response of the short cones () is inverted with respect to topological surface information, via a graded anisotropic effective medium model. The main topological parameter measured was the average cone height. Optical methods are shown to represent a valuable characterization tool of nanostructured surfaces, in particular when a large coverage area is desirable. Because of the fast and nondestructive properties of optical techniques, they may readily be adapted to in situ configurations.
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