Subsurface chemical nanoidentification by nano-FTIR spectroscopy

L. Mester, A. A. Govyadinov, S. Chen, M. Goikoetxea and R. Hillenbrand

Nature Communications 11, 3359 (2020)
Nano-FTIR spectroscopy based on Fourier transform infrared near-field spectroscopy allows for label-free chemical nanocharacterization of organic and inorganic composite surfaces. The potential capability for subsurface material analysis, however, is largely unexplored terrain. Here, we demonstrate nano-FTIR spectroscopy of subsurface organic layers, revealing that nano-FTIR spectra from thin surface layers differ from that of subsurface layers of the same organic material. Further, we study the correlation of various nano-FTIR peak characteristics and establish a simple and robust method for distinguishing surface from subsurface layers without the need of theoretical modeling or simulations (provided that chemically induced spectral modifications are not present). Our experimental findings are confirmed and explained by a semi-analytical model for calculating nano-FTIR spectra of multilayered organic samples. Our results are critically important for the interpretation of nano-FTIR spectra of multilayer samples, particularly to avoid that geometry-induced spectral peak shifts are explained by chemical effects.