Optical methods are often thought to lose their effectiveness as a metrology tool beyond the Rayleigh criterion. However, using advanced modeling methods, the conventional resolution limitations encountered in well-defined edge-to-edge measurements using edge thresholds do not apply. In fact, in this paper we present evidence that optics can be used to image and measure features as small as 10 nm in dimension, well below the imaging wavelength. To understand the limits of optical methods we have extensively studied both linewidth and overlay metrology applications. Although overlay applications are usually thought to involve pitch or centerline measurements of features from different process levels, some target designs present optical proximity effects which pose a significant challenge. Likewise, line width measurements require determination of the physical edges and geometry which created that profile. Both types of measurements require model-based analysis to accurately evaluate the data and images. In this paper we explore methods to optimize target geometry, optical configurations, structured illumination, and analysis algorithms with applications in both critical dimension and overlay metrology.© (2004) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.