The introduction of source mask optimization (SMO) to the design process addresses an urgent need for the 32nm node and beyond as alternative lithography approaches continue to push out. To take full advantage of SMO routines, an understanding of the characteristic properties of diffractive optical elements (DOEs) is required. Greater flexibility in the DOE output is needed to optimize lithographic process windows. In addition, new and tighter constraints on the DOEs used for off-axis illumination (OAI) are being introduced to precisely predict, control and reduce the effects of pole imbalance and stray light on the CD budget. We present recent advancements in the modeling and optical performance of these DOEs.© (2010) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.