Exploring the detection limits of infrared near-field microscopy regarding small buried structures and pushing them by exploiting superlens-related effects

L. Jung, B. Hauer, P. Li, M. Bornhöfft, J. Mayer, and T. Taubner

Optics Express Vol. 24, Issue 5, pp. 4431-4441 (2016)
We present a study on subsurface imaging with an infrared scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscope (s-SNOM). The depth-limitation for the visibility of gold nanoparticles with a diameter of 50 nm under Si3N4 is determined to about 50 nm. We first investigate spot size and signal strength concerning their particle-size dependence for a dielectric cover layer with positive permittivity. The experimental results are confirmed by model calculations and a comparison to TEM images. In the next step, we investigate spectroscopically also the regime of negative permittivity of the capping layer and its influence on lateral resolution and signal strength in experiment and simulations. The explanation of this observation combines subsurface imaging and superlensing, and shows up limitations of the latter regarding small structure sizes.