The current scanning near-field optical microscopy has been developed with optical-fiber probes obtained by use of either laser-heated pulling or chemical etching. For high-resolution near-field imaging, the detected signal is rapidly attenuated as the aperture size of the probe decreases. It is thus important to fabricate probes optimized for both spot size and optical transmission. We present a two-step fabrication that allowed us to achieve an improved performance of the optical-fiber probes. Initially, a CO<sub>2</sub> laser-heated pulling was used to produce a parabolic transitional taper ending with a top thin filament. Then, a rapid chemical etching with 50% buffered hydrofluoric acid was used to remove the thin filament and to result in a final conical tip on the top of the parabolic transitional taper. Systematically, we obtained optical-fiber nanoprobes with the apex size as small as 10 nm and the final cone angle varying from 15° to 80°. It was found that the optical transmission efficiency increases rapidly as the taper angle increases from 15° to 50°, but a further increase in the taper angle gives rise to important broadening of the spot size. Finally, the fabricated nanoprobes were used in photon-scanning tunneling microscopy, which allowed observation of etched double lines and grating structures with periods as small as 200 nm.
© 1998 Optical Society of America
N. Essaidi, Y. Chen, V. Kottler, E. Cambril, C. Mayeux, N. Ronarch, and C. Vieu, "Fabrication and characterization of optical-fiber nanoprobes for scanning near-field optical microscopy," Appl. Opt. 37, 609-615 (1998)