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J Microsc. 2003 Mar;209(Pt 3):150-4.

Fabrication of near-field optical apertures in aluminium by a highly selective corrosion process in the evanescent field.

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Nanotechnology Group, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Tannenstrasse 3, CH-8092 Zurich, Switzerland.


A simple, one-step process to fabricate high-quality apertures for scanning near-field optical microscope probes based on aluminium-coated silicon nitride cantilevers is presented. A thin evanescent optical field at a glass-water interface was used to heat the aluminium at the tip apex due to light absorption. The heat induced a breakdown of the passivating oxide layer and local corrosion of the metal, which selectively exposed the front-most part of the probe tip from the aluminium. Apertures with a protruding silicon nitride tip up to 72 nm in height were fabricated. The height of the protrusion was controlled by the extent of the evanescent field, whereas the diameter depended on the geometry of the probe substrate. The corrosion process proved to be self-terminating, yielding highly reproducible tip heights. Near-field optical resolution in a transmission mode of 85 nm was demonstrated.

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