Generic arrays of surface-positioned and shallow-buried gold multi-shapes as reference samples to benchmark near-field microscopes. Part 1: Applications in s-SNOM depth imaging

Binyamin Kusnetz, Jeremy Belhassen, Denis E. Tranca, Stefan G. Stanciu, Stefan-Razvan Anton, Zeev Zalevsky, George A. Stanciu and Avi Karsenty

Results in Physics 56,107318 (2024)
A wide palette of nanoscale imaging techniques operating in the near-field regime has been reported to date, enabling an important number of scientific breakthroughs. While the tuning and benchmarking of near-field microscopes represent a very important step for optimizing the outputs of the imaging sessions, no generally acknowledged standards exist yet in terms of calibration of near-field microscopes, which would play an important role in fully exploiting the potential of these instruments. With this work, we aim to contribute to filling in this gap, by introducing a prototypical sample, that holds potential for becoming a benchmark with respect to comparing the performances of diverse near-field measurement techniques, including traditional, aperture based, scanning near field microscopy (SNOM), or apertureless variants, such as scattering-type scanning nearfield optical microscopy (s-SNOM). The proposed samples have been thoroughly simulated, and an easy fabrication procedure is presented and demonstrated. In this latter context, Au-SiO2 samples sharing different configurations, in terms of geometry, number and depth of contrast yielding layers, enabling both surface and sub-surface nanoscopy measurements, were designed and fabricated. We argue that the proposed prototypical samples can be highly useful for benchmarking the outputs of various near-field microscopy techniques, as they facilitate a broad range of tests, relevant for comparing the performances and accuracy of many diverse investigation methods. We also introduce a methodology for numerically simulating the samples and their near-field after illuminating them with light of different wavelengths, as well as their simple process flow. This methodology can considerably augment their future use as a prototypical sample for the evaluation and calibration of current and next generation near-field nanoscopy techniques. Experimental evidence on the usefulness of these samples as s-SNOM testing and benchmarking tools is provided in the context of differentiation of surface and sub-surface structures, and influence of tip-sample distance on attainable amplitude and phase signals. We consider these efforts to represent an important, required step, in advancing the near-field imaging field, with important potential to augment the outputs of current near-field imaging systems, and to facilitate the development and benchmarking of next generation of near-field instrumentation.