L. Mester, A. A. Govyadinov and R. Hillenbrand
Nanophotonics, 11, 377 (2021)
Scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscopy (s-SNOM) and Fourier transform infrared nanospectroscopy (nano-FTIR) are emerging tools for physical and chemical nanocharacterization of organic and inorganic composite materials. Being based on (i) diffraction-limited illumination of a scanning probe tip for nanofocusing of light and (ii) recording of the tip-scattered radiation, the efficient suppression of background scattering has been critical for their success. Here, we show that indirect tip illumination via far-field reflection and scattering at the sample can produce s-SNOM and nano-FTIR signals of materials that are not present at the tip position – despite full background suppression. Although these artefacts occur primarily on or near large sample structures, their understanding and recognition are of utmost importance to ensure correct interpretation of images and spectra. Detailed experimental and theoretical results show how such artefacts can be identified and eliminated by a simple signal normalization step, thus critically strengthening the analytical capabilities of s-SNOM and nano-FTIR spectroscopy.