Photon Tunneling Microscopy of Polymeric Surfaces

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Science  26 Nov 1993:
Vol. 262, Issue 5138, pp. 1395-1400
DOI: 10.1126/science.262.5138.1395


With photon tunneling microscopy it is possible to image polymeric and other dielectric surfaces by means of the unusual properties of photon tunneling or evanescent waves. Vertical resolution is 1 nanometer, limited by the detector, over a vertical range of half a wavelength. Lateral resolution is better than a quarter of a wavelength over a field of view up to 125 micrometers. Samples can be surveyed in real time in air, with no need for metallization, and without shadowing or the intrusive effects of electrons or scanning probes. The use of this technique to study single crystals of polyethylene and processes such as latex film formation and the evolution of polystyrene topography while dewetting above the glass transition temperature are described.