The aim of this paper is to provide criteria for optical artifacts recognition in reflection-mode apertureless scanning near-field optical microscopy, implementing demodulation techniques at higher harmonics. We show that optical images acquired at different harmonics, although totally uncorrelated from the topography, can be entirely due to far-field artifacts. Such observations are interpreted by developing the dipole-dipole model for the detection scheme at higher harmonics. The model, confirmed by the experiment, predicts a lack of correlation between the topography and optical images even for structures a few tens of nanometers high, due to the rectification effect introduced by the lock-in amplifier used for signal demodulation. Analytical formulas deduced for the far-field background permit to simulate and identify all the different fictitious patterns to be expected from metallic nanowires or nanoparticles of a given shape. In particular, the background dependence on the tip-oscillation amplitude is put forward as the cause of the error-signal artifacts, suggesting, at the same time, specific fine-tuning configurations for background-free imaging. Finally a careful analysis of the phase signal is carried out. In particular, our model correctly interprets the steplike dependence observed experimentally of the background phase signal versus the tip-sample distance, and suggests to look for smooth variations of the phase signal for unambiguous near-field imaging assessment.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)