Substrate-enhanced infrared near-field spectroscopy

J. Aizpurua, T. Taubner, F. J. Garcia de Abajo, M. Brehm, and R. Hillenbrand

Optics Express 16, 1529 (2008)
We study the amplitude and phase signals detected in infrared scattering-type near field optical microscopy (s-SNOM) when probing a thin sample layer on a substrate. We theoretically describe this situation by solving the electromagnetic scattering of a dipole near a planar sample consisting of a substrate covered by thin layers. We perform calculations to describe the effect of both weakly (Si and SiO2) and strongly (Au) reflecting substrates on the spectral s-SNOM signal of a thin PMMA layer. We theoretically predict, and experimentally confirm an enhancement effect in the polymer vibrational spectrum when placed on strongly reflecting substrates. We also calculate the scattered fields for a resonant tip-substrate interaction, obtaining a dramatic enhancement of the signal amplitude and spectroscopic contrast of the sample layer, together with a change of the spectral line shape. The enhanced contrast opens the possibility to perform ultra-sensitive near field infrared spectroscopy of monolayers and biomolecules.