Mapping the near fields of plasmonic nanoantennas by scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscopy

T. Neuman, P. Alonso-González, A. Garcia-Etxarri, M. Schnell, R. Hillenbrand and J. Aizpurua

Laser & Photonics, Volume 9, Issue 6, pages 637–649, November 2015 (2015)
Near-field optical microscopy techniques provide information on the amplitude and phase of local fields in samples of interest in nanooptics. However, the information on the near field is typically obtained by converting it into propagating far fields where the signal is detected. This is the case, for instance, in polarization-resolved scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscopy (s-SNOM), where a sharp dielectric tip scatters the local near field off the antenna to the far field. Up to now, basic models have interpreted S- and P-polarized maps obtained in s-SNOM as directly proportional to the in-plane (inline image or inline image) and out-of-plane (inline image) near-field components of the antenna, respectively, at the position of the probing tip. Here, a novel model that includes the multiple-scattering process of the probing tip and the nanoantenna is developed, with use of the reciprocity theorem of electromagnetism. This novel theoretical framework provides new insights into the interpretation of s-SNOM near-field maps: the model reveals that the fields detected by polarization-resolved interferometric s-SNOM do not correlate with a single component of the local near field, but rather with a complex combination of the different local near-field components at each point (inline image, inline image and inline image). Furthermore, depending on the detection scheme (S- or P-polarization), a different scaling of the scattered fields as a function of the local near-field enhancement is obtained. The theoretical findings are corroborated by s-SNOM experiments which map the near field of linear and gap plasmonic antennas. This new interpretation of nanoantenna s-SNOM maps as a complex-valued combination of vectorial local near fields is crucial to correctly understand scattering-type near-field microscopy measurements as well as to interpret the signals obtained in field-enhanced spectroscopy.