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We present a two-dimensional Monte Carlo simulation of profile evolution during the overetching step of polysilicon-on-insulator structures, which considers explicitly (a) electric field effects during the charging transient, (b) etching reactions of energetic ions impinging on the poly-Si, and (c) forward inelastic scattering effects. Realistic energy and angular distributions for ions and electrons are used in trajectory calculations through local electric fields near and in the microstructure. Transient charging of exposed insulator surfaces is found to profoundly affect local sidewall etching (notching). Ion scattering contributions are small but important in matching experimental notch profiles. The model is validated by capturing quantitatively the notch characteristics and also the effects of the line connectivity and open area width on the notch depth, which have been observed experimentally by Nozawa etal [Jpn. J. Appl. Phys. 34, 2107 (1995)]. Elucidation of the mechanisms responsible for the effect facilitates the prediction of ways to minimize or eliminate notching. © 1997 American Vacuum Society.