M. Schnell, P. Sarriugarte, T. Neuman, A. B. Khanikaev, G. Shvets, J. Aizpurua, and R. Hillenbrand
Nano Letters, 2016, 16 (1), pp 663–670 (2015)
Chiral antennas and metasurfaces can be designed to react differently to left- and right-handed circularly polarized light, which enables novel optical properties such as giant optical activity and negative refraction. Here, we demonstrate that the underlying chiral near-field distributions can be directly mapped with scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscopy employing circularly polarized illumination. We apply our technique to visualize, for the first time, the circular-polarization selective nanofocusing of infrared light in Archimedean spiral antennas, and explain this chiral optical effect by directional launching of traveling waves in analogy to antenna theory. Moreover, we near-field image single-layer rosette and asymmetric dipole–monopole metasurfaces and find negligible and strong chiral optical near-field contrast, respectively. Our technique paves the way for near-field characterization of optical chirality in metal nanostructures, which will be essential for the future development of chiral antennas and metasurfaces and their applications.