Thin Solid Films

Instrumental developments and recent experiments in near-field optical microscopy

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Recent advances in the understanding of light propagation in small dimensions as well as in instrumentation make scanning near-field optical microscopy (SNOM) a very promising tool for studying optical phenomena on a nanometer scale. In this talk, we will demonstrate experiments carried out with the recently developed tunneling near-field optical microscope. We found superior image contrast, as compared with images taken with conventional aperture SNOM, along with the high resolution commonly achieved with fiber probes. This work was motivated by the theoretical investigations presented in Dr. Pohl's talk. We will further describe two recently built instruments. The first is a scanning tunneling optical microscope combined with a scanning force microscope. The second instrument is an aperture-type SNOM mounted on the sample stage of a conventional inverted optical microscope. Of particular interest to us is imaging with polarization contrast. One of the goals is to study liquid-crystal films which have been micropatterned with the help of a force microscope tip. These samples are promising as waveguides and potential electro-optical devices. Additionally, they represent very convenient test samples for polarization SNOM.