In this paper, we critically asses the important issue of damage in high speed AFM for metrology and inspection of semiconductor wafers. The issues of damage in four major scanning modes (contact mode, tapping mode, non-contact mode, and peak force tapping mode) are described to show which modes are suitable for which applications and which conditions are damaging. The effects of all important scanning parameters on resulting damage are taken into account for materials such as silicon, photoresists and low K materials.
Finally, we recommend appropriate scanning parameters and conditions for several use cases (FinFET, patterned photoresist, HAR structures) that avoid exceeding a critical contact stress such that sample damage is minimized.
In conclusion, we show using our theoretical analysis that selecting parameters that exceed the target contact stress, indeed leads to significant damage. This method provides AFM users for metrology with a better understanding of contact stresses and enables selection of AFM cantilevers and experimental parameters that prevent sample damage.