We present an analysis of scanning near-field optical microscopy in terms of the so-called communication modes using scalar wave theory. We show that the number of connected modes increases when the scanning distance is decreased, but the number of modes decreases when the size of the scanning aperture is decreased. In the limit of small detector aperture the best-connected mode reduces effectively to the Green function, evaluated at the center of the scanning aperture. We also suggest that the resolution of a scanning optical near-field imaging system is essentially given by the width of the lowest-order communication mode.
©2006 Optical Society of America
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