Tip diameter and transmission efficiency of a visible-wavelength near-field optic probe determine both the lateral spatial resolution and experimental utility of the near-field scanning optical microscope. The commonly used tip fabrication technique, laser-heated pulling of fused-silica optical fiber followed by aperture formation through aluminization, is a complex process governed by a large number of parameters. An extensive study of the pulling parameter space has revealed a time-dependent functionality between the various pulling parameters dominated by a photon-based heating mechanism. The photon-based heat source results in a temperature and viscosity dependence that is a complex function of time and fiber diameter. Changing the taper of the optical probe can affect transmission efficiency by an order of magnitude or more.
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