Ellipsometry is an optical reflection or transmission experiment using polarized light in which the change of polarization due to interaction with the object of interest is measured. The separate consideration of orthogonal polarization eigenmodes provides amplitude- and phase information (the so called ellipsometric angles Ψ and Δ or more general the Mueller matrix elements). By numerical inversion of the measured data or by means of transfer-matrix based models including parameterized model functions, the following properties of materials, layers or even layer stacks can be obtained from the experimental data:

  • Layer thickness
  • Optical constants,
    • Complex refractive index (real part n and extinction coefficient k), or
    • Complex dielectric functions (real ε1 and imaginary part ε2)
  • Electronic properties (Interband transitions, excitons, polaritons)
  • Free-charge-carrier properties (plasmons)
  • Lattice vibrations (phonons)
  • Surface and interface properties (roughness, gradients, adsorbates, ...)
  • Orientation of optical axes and birefringence in anisotrpe samples


The portfolio of modern applications is (almost) unlimited. Examples are:

  • Anorganics and organics
  • Metals, semiconductors, insolators (dielectrics), multiferroics, graphene
  • Isotropic and anisotropic (uniaxial or biaxial) materials
  • In-situ process control
  • Lithography
  • 3D-structures


Buntgarn, at the English Wikipedia project [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Schematic setup of ellipsometry. (*only one element is mandatory)


Related textbooks:

  • R.M.A. Azzam & N.M. Bashara
    Ellipsometry and Polarized Light
    North-Holland Pub. Co., 1977; ISBN 978-0444870162 (More Info)

  • H. Fujiwara
    Spectroscopic Ellipsometry: Principles and Applications
    John Wileyn & Sons, 2007; ISBN 978-0470016084 (More Infos)

  • K. Hinrichs & K.-J. Eichhorn (Eds.)
    Ellipsometry of Functional Organic Surfaces and Films
    Springer, 2014; ISBN 378-3642401282 (More Infos)

  • M. Losurdo & K. Hingerl (Eds.)
    Ellipsometry at the Nanoscale
    Springer, 2013; ISBN 978-3642339561 (More Infos)

  • A. Roeseler
    Infrared Spectroscopic Ellipsometry
    Akademie-Verlag, Berlin, 1990; ISBN 978-3055006234

  • M. Schubert
    Infrared Ellipsometry on Semiconductor Layer Structures: Phonons, Plasmons, and Polaritons
    Springer Tracts in Modern Physics, Vol. 209, Springer, 2004; ISBN 978-3540232490 (More Infos)

  • H.G. Tompkins & E.A. Irene (Eds.)
    Handbook of Ellipsometry
    William Andrew Pub., Springer, 2005; ISBN 978-3540222934 (More Infos)

  • H.G. Tompkins &  W.A. McGahan
    Spectroscopic Ellipsometry and Reflectometry: A User's Guide
    John Wiley & Sons, 1999; ISBN 978-0471181729 (More Infos)

  • H.G. Tompkins
    A User's Guide to Ellipsometry
    Dover Publications, 2006; ISBN 978-0486450285 (More Infos)
    (Originally published by Academic Press, 1993)