Feature Adaptive Sampling for Scanning Electron Microscopy
A new method for the image acquisition in scanning electron microscopy (SEM) was introduced. The method used adaptively increased pixel-dwell times to improve the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) in areas of high detail. In areas of low detail, the electron dose was reduced on a per pixel basis and a-posteriori image processing techniques were applied to remove the resulting noise. The technique was realized by scanning the sample twice. The first, quick scan used small pixel-dwell times to generate a first, noisy image using a low electron dose. This image was analyzed automatically and a software algorithm generated a sparse pattern of regions of the image that require additional sampling. A second scan generated a sparse image of only these regions, but using a highly increased electron dose. By applying a selective low-pass filter and combining both datasets, a single image was generated. The resulting image exhibited a factor of ≈3 better SNR than an image acquired with uniform sampling on a Cartesian grid and the same total acquisition time. This result implies that the required electron dose (or acquisition time) for the adaptive scanning method is a factor of ten lower than for uniform scanning.