Learn & Share: Surface Metrology

Surface metrology refers to the measurement and analysis of a material’s topography (surface structure). Most often it concerns the characterization of surface roughness, the extent to which a surface deviates from being ideally smooth due to protrusions, recessions, irregularities, undulations with peaks and troughs, etc. These deviations from flatness are typically over a size scale from nanometers to micrometers.

Surface roughness can have an important influence on many interfacial phenomena, such as electromagnetic wave transmission and reflection, photoelectrical properties, electrical and thermal conduction, adsorption, adhesion, wetting, among others. These phenomena can play important roles in mechanical, electrical/electronic, thermal, fluid dynamic, chemical, and biological effects which are exploited for scientific and technical applications. In addition, surface roughness is critical for some manufacturing processes in specific industries, such as microelectronics, materials, automotive, aerospace, to name a few. In order to find the optimal specifications for these production processes, it must be understood how the roughness affects product performance. The ability to control roughness during fabrication can result in better process optimization leading to higher assurance of product quality and more cost-effective production.