The advent of scanning near-field optical microscopy (SNOM) has augmented at the microscopic level the usefulness of IR spectroscopy. Two-dimensional imaging of chemical constituents makes this a very attractive and powerful new approach. In this paper we present SNOM results on boron-doped silicon and on biological growth medium by means of shear-force, reflectivity and photocurrent measurements. Such experiments allowed us to identify boron clusters embedded in silicon and the distribution of growth medium constituents with a lateral resolution well below the diffraction limit. (C) 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.