Scanning Near-Field Optical Microscopy of Ultrathin Gold Films

Dmitry I. Yakubovsky ,Dmitry V. Grudinin,Georgy A. Ermolaev, Andrey A. Vyshnevyy ,Mikhail S. Mironov ,Sergey M. Novikov, Aleksey V. Arsenin and Valentyn S. Volkov

Nanomaterials 13, 1376 (2023)
Ultrathin metal films are an essential platform for two-dimensional (2D) material compatible and flexible optoelectronics. Characterization of thin and ultrathin film-based devices requires a thorough consideration of the crystalline structure and local optical and electrical properties of the metal-2D material interface since they could be dramatically different from the bulk material. Recently, it was demonstrated that the growth of gold on the chemical vapor deposited monolayer MoS2 leads to a continuous metal film that preserves plasmonic optical response and conductivity even at thicknesses below 10 nm. Here, we examined the optical response and morphology of ultrathin gold films deposited on exfoliated MoS2 crystal flakes on the SiO2/Si substrate via scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscopy (s-SNOM). We demonstrate a direct relationship between the ability of thin film to support guided surface plasmon polaritons (SPP) and the s-SNOM signal intensity with a very high spatial resolution. Using this relationship, we observed the evolution of the structure of gold films grown on SiO2 and MoS2 with an increase in thickness. The continuous morphology and superior ability with respect to supporting SPPs of the ultrathin (≤10 nm) gold on MoS2 is further confirmed with scanning electron microscopy and direct observation of SPP fringes via s-SNOM. Our results establish s-SNOM as a tool for testing plasmonic films and motivate further theoretical research on the impact of the interplay between the guided modes and the local optical properties on the s-SNOM signal.