Breaking the Diffraction Barrier: Optical Microscopy on a Nanometric Scale

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Science  22 Mar 1991:
Vol. 251, Issue 5000, pp. 1468-1470
DOI: 10.1126/science.251.5000.1468


In near-field scanning optical microscopy, a light source or detector with dimensions less than the wavelength (λ) is placed in close proximity (λ/50) to a sample to generate images with resolution better than the diffraction limit. A near-field probe has been developed that yields a resolution of ∼12 nm (∼λ/43) and signals ∼104- to 106-fold larger than those reported previously. In addition, image contrast is demonstrated to be highly polarization dependent. With these probes, near-field microscopy appears poised to fulfill its promise by combining the power of optical characterization methods with nanometric spatial resolution.