Electron beam induced radiation damage presents great challenges for the electron microscopy analysis of low k and ultra low k dielectrics due to their beam sensitive nature. In order to minimize the radiation damage, it is necessary to understand the mechanisms behind the damage. This work presents detailed studies regarding the mechanisms behind the effects of probe currents, accelerating voltage and anticharging coating layers on the radiation damage to low/ultralow K dielectrics. The results indicate that the probe current shows a stronger dependence on the size of the condenser lens aperture than the accelerating voltage. Therefore, in terms of the probe current, the condenser lens aperture plays a decisive role in affecting the radiation damage process. In order to minimize the radiation damage, SEM imaging should be conducted with not only a low accelerating voltage but also a small condenser lens aperture to reduce probe current. Based on simulation results, the effects of a coating layer and accelerating voltage are related to the interaction volume and the penetration depth of the electron beam. Pt coating can act as not only an anti-charging layer, but also an effective barrier layer for reducing electron flux that interacts with the low/ultra-low dielectrics.

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