Conference paper

Ultrasharp carbon whisker optical fiber probes for scanning near-field optical microscopy

We report the growth of ultrasharp carbon whiskers onto apertured near-field optical glass fiber probes. The ultrasharp carbon whiskers are produced by the electron-assisted dissociation of residual oil vapors present in the vacuum chamber during the electron beam exposition of the tip. This cost effective manufacturing procedure is reproducible, fast and allows controlling the shape of the carbon whisker. The radius of curvature of the whisker apex is approximately 10 nm while its small total length is around 100 nm thus fulfilling the requirements of aperture Scanning Near-Field Optical Microscope (SNOM) probes, i.e. to keep the distance between the sample and the optical aperture during the scanning at subwavelength scale. Furthermore, due to the intrinsic properties of the amorphous carbon whisker, the probes are durable. The carbon whisker optical fiber probes are mounted on tuning-forks using the earlier discussed double-resonant principle. This process ensures a high quality factor of the sensor in the range 2000-5500, which enables to cope with the large stiffness of the tuning-fork actuator and obtain a characteristic noise-limited sensitivity smaller than 10pN necessary to image soft biological samples without destroying them. To illustrate the sensor's performances, transmission near-field optical images of SNOM calibration grating as well as high-resolution state-of-the-art topographic images of single DNA molecules are presented. Prospects of further improvements of the fabrication method enabling to achieve the lighting rod enhancement of the optical near-field (nano-antenna effect) are briefly discussed.


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