As the name implies, laser ellipsometers use a laser as the light source, which produces monochromatic or single-wavelength radiation. This contrasts with spectroscopic ellipsometers, which utilize light sources that produce a broad spectrum, and account for a significantly larger market. Laser ellipsometry provides a much faster analysis, and produces a much smaller analysis spot, which makes it better suited for mapping and microscopy applications. One major limitation of laser ellipsometers is that they normally can analyze only single-layer films, although some models add a second and even a third laser source in order to analyze multiple layers.
Laser ellipsometry is used most heavily in the semiconductor and electronics industry. It is suited to analyzing transparent films such as nitrides and oxides, and is used to analyze products such as flat panel displays and solar cells. A potentially large market for laser ellipsometry exists in biotechnology, where scientists are now exploring its use for high-throughput screening of biochips. Laser ellipsometry provides a relatively low-cost, high-speed analysis method that does not require the sample prep associated with fluorescence methods.The global market for laser ellipsometry is less than $15 million. The next year or two could prove challenging for this market due to the downturn in the semiconductor industry and the consumer economy, although the longer term market potential is still bright.
The foregoing data were based on SDi's market analysis and perspectives report entitled Edition Global Assessment Report, 10th Edition: The Laboratory Life Science and Analytical Instrument Industry, September 2008. For more information, contact Stuart Press, Vice President — Strategic Analysis, Strategic Directions International, Inc., 6242 Westchester Parkway, Suite 100, Los Angeles, CA 90045, (310) 641-4982, fax: (310) 641-8851, http://www.strategic-directions.com/.