Abstract

We examine fundamental issues related to discriminating structural and optical features in near-field scanning apertureless microscopy. We report a series of controlled experiments with nanosphere-sized standard spheres in which we observed significant differences in resolution and structure between an atomic-force microscope image and a simultaneously acquired near-field optical (NFO) image. Further, in experiments that employed a mix of dyed and undyed nanospheres we found that we can observe differences in the same NFO image for adjacent nanospheres. Therefore we conclude that near-field scanning apertureless microscopy not only meets the criteria for a NFO image but also is capable of measuring optical properties below the diffraction limit. The two-point resolution was at least 200 nm when we were detecting optical phase and 50 nm when we were detecting optical intensity. The edge response was typically 15 nm, and the minimum observable features were of the order of 3 nm.

© 1999 Optical Society of America

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