We discuss the use of light scattered from a latent image to control photoresist exposure dose and focus conditions which results in improved control of the critical dimension (CD) of the developed photoresist. A laser at a nonexposing wavelength is used to illuminate a latent image grating. The light diffracted from the grating is directly related to the exposure dose and focus and thus to the resultant CD in the developed resist. Modeling has been done using rigorous coupled wave analysis to predict the diffraction from a latent image as a function of the substrate optical properties and the photoactive compound (PAC) concentration distribution inside the photoresist. It is possible to use the model to solve the inverse problem: given the diffraction, to predict the parameters of the latent image and hence the developed pattern. This latent image monitor can be implemented in a stepper to monitor exposure in situ, or prior to development to predict the developed CD of a wafer for early detection of bad devices. Experimentation has been conducted using various photoresists and substrates with excellent agreement between theoretical and experimental results. The technique has been used to characterize a test pattern with a focused spot as small as 36 micrometers in diameter. Using diffracted light from a simulated closed-loop control of exposure dose, CD control was improved by as much as four times for substrates with variations in underlying film thickness, compared to using fixed exposure time. The latent image monitor has also been applied to wafers with rough metal substrates and focus optimization.© (1992) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.