Ultrasonic near-field optical microscopy using a plasmonic nanofocusing probe

Phillip Ahn, Zhen Zhang, Cheng Sun, Oluwaseyi Balogun

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18 Scopus citations


Ultrasonic waves are sensitive to the elastic properties of solids and have been applied in a variety of nondestructive materials characterization and metrology applications. The spatial resolution of established ultrasound techniques is limited to the order of the ultrasound wavelength, which is insufficient for nanomechanical characterization and imaging of nanoscale aspects of a material microstructure. Here, we report of an ultrasonic near-field optical microscopy (UNOM) technique that enables local mapping of ultrasound with deep sub-optical wavelength spatial resolution. In this technique, ultrasonic waves generated by a pulsed laser are detected by a scanning near-field optical probe over a broad frequency bandwidth. The scanning probe features a plasmonic nano-focusing lens that concentrates light to a strongly localized focal spot at the tip of the probe. The plasmonic probe enhances the scattering of evanescent light at the probe-tip and enables reliable measurement of the dynamic motion of a vibrating surface. The measurements made by the UNOM are purely optical; therefore, it is independent of mechanical coupling between the probe and the sample, which is one of the limitations of force based scanning probe microscopy methods. The UNOM technique allows for spatially and temporally resolved optical measurements of ultrasound with greater penetration depth, and it combines the benefits of local sensitivity to elastic and optical properties. Experimental results are presented, which demonstrate the potential of the technique for local mapping of subsurface optical absorbers in a soft material with high spatial resolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number234903
JournalJournal of Applied Physics
Issue number23
StatePublished - Jun 21 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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