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Optics Express

Optics Express

  • Editor: C. Martijn de Sterke
  • Vol. 18, Iss. 15 — Jul. 19, 2010
  • pp: 16014–16024
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Parallel scanning-optical nanoscopy with optically confined probes

Hsin-Yu Tsai, Samuel W. Thomas, III, and Rajesh Menon  »View Author Affiliations


Optics Express, Vol. 18, Issue 15, pp. 16014-16024 (2010)
http://dx.doi.org/10.1364/OE.18.016014


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Abstract

We report the imaging of sub-diffraction limited features using an optical probe generated by focusing a round spot at one wavelength, λ1 = 405nm, and a ring-shaped spot at a second wavelength, λ2 = 532nm, onto a thin photochromic layer that coats the nanostructures. Illumination at λ2 turns the photochromic layer opaque to λ1 everywhere except at the centre of the ring, where the illumination at λ1 penetrates and probes the underlying nanostructure. We confirm that this optically confined probe increases image contrast and is able to resolve features smaller than the far-field diffraction limit. Furthermore, by using an array of dual-wavelength diffractive microlenses, we demonstrate the feasibility of parallelizing this approach. Compared to previous approaches, our technique is not limited to fluorescence imaging.

© 2010 OSA

1. Introduction

Diffraction limits the spatial resolution of optical imaging in the far-field to about half the wavelength [1

1. E. Abbe, “Beiträge zur Theorie des Mikroskops und der mikroskopischen Wahrnehmung,” Archiv für Mikroskopische Anatomie 9(1), 413–418 (1873). [CrossRef]

]. This diffraction barrier effectively prevents imaging of nanostructures with visible light. Traditionally, nanoscale imaging or nanoscopy was carried out via electron and X-ray microscopy. These high-energy particles impart considerable damage to fragile organic samples. Moreover, the vacuum environments within such systems are hostile to certain materials.

Sub-diffraction-limited imaging is also attained by the temporal separation of fluorescence from closely spaced molecules [5

5. H. Shroff, C. G. Galbraith, J. A. Galbraith, and E. Betzig, “Live-cell photoactivated localization microscopy of nanoscale adhesion dynamics,” Nat. Methods 5(5), 417–423 (2008). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

7

7. B. Huang, W. Wang, M. Bates, and X. Zhuang, “Three-dimensional super-resolution imaging by stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy,” Science 319(5864), 810–813 (2008). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

]. This approach relies on the stochastic switching between a fluorescent and a non-fluorescent state. Collecting multiple photons emitted from a single fluorophore allows for nanometric localization of the molecule. Images are then generated by tens of thousands of imaging and activation cycles, followed by post-processing of the collected data. A large number of imaging cycles are required to probe all the fluorophores within the field. Most significantly, both these approaches are limited to fluorescence imaging.

General imaging modalities are enabled by near-field scanning-optical microscopy, which uses a sharp tip or a subwavelength aperture in close proximity to a sample [8

8. E. Betzig and R. J. Chichester, “Single molecules observed by near-field scanning optical microscopy,” Science 262(5138), 1422–1425 (1993). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

,9

9. H. G. Hansma, “Varieties of imaging with scanning probe microscopes,” Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 96(26), 14678–14680 (1999). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

]. Light is confined to sub-wavelength dimensions in the vicinity of the tip or aperture. The signal is exponentially dependent on the gap between the probe and the sample, and extremely precise control of the gap is required. As a result, this is a slow, serial process that is challenging to parallelize.

Photons play a key role in imaging inorganic samples [10

10. P. Bourgeat, F. Meriaudeau, K. W. Tobin, and P. Gorria, “Content based segmentation of patterned wafers,” J. Electron. Imaging 13(3), 428–435 (2004). [CrossRef]

,11

11. S. Tueber, A. Bzdurek, A. C. Durr, J. Heumann, and C. Holfeld, “Limitations of optical reticle inspection for 45-nm node and beyond,” Proc. SPIE 6349, 63490T/1–10 (2006).

]. Specifically, they provide contrast mechanisms that are unavailable with other particles. In the case of long-wavelength photons, their phase may be readily exploited to gain additional structural information [12

12. K. Huang, J. Lee, Y. Wen, and J. Opsal, “Application of scatterometry for evaluation of lithographic process and OPC model generation,” Proc. SPIE 5752, 536–545 (2005). [CrossRef]

,13

13. H. Hsu-Ting and F. L. Terry, “Spectroscopic ellipsometry and reflectometry from gratings (Scatterometry) for critical dimension measurement and in situ, real-time process monitoring,” Thin Solid Films 455–456, 828–836 (2004).

]. Nevertheless, in most cases, poor-quality optical images require verification by high-resolution electron microscopy [14

14. Y. Choi, M. Kim, S. Oh, and O. Han, “CD measurement evaluation on periodic patterns between optic tools and CD-SEM,” Proc. SPIE 6349, 6491N/1–8 (2006).

]. Even for inorganic samples, this can be problematic due to the slow imaging speed, tedious and destructive sample preparation, and artefacts arising from environmental electromagnetic disturbances and charge buildup in the sample.

Here we demonstrate nanoscopy using optically confined probes via a technique that we refer to as absorbance modulation. In absorbance modulation, a thin film of photochromic material is placed on top of the substrate to be imaged. The absorbance of photochromic materials can be decreased by exposure to one wavelength, λ1, and restored by exposure to a second wavelength, λ2. When a focused spot at λ1 and a ring-shaped spot at λ2 illuminate the photochromic film, a dynamic competition between the two photo-reactions ensues. This results in a transparent region of deep sub-wavelength dimensions localized around the null of the λ2 intensity distribution. Light at λ1, subsequently transmits through this region, probing the sample underneath (see Fig. 1A
Fig. 1 Absorbance modulation for optical nanoscopy. (A) The sample to be imaged (depicted as absorber features on a glass substrate) is over-coated with a layer of photochromic molecules. These photochromic molecules turn transparent when illuminated by λ1 and recover their original opaque state when illuminated by λ2. When this overlayer is illuminated by a ring-shaped spot at λ2 coincident with a round spot at λ1, the photostationary state results in a narrow transparent region in the vicinity of the λ2 node. Light at λ1 penetrates this region forming a spatially confined probe. Light at λ2 is filtered out beyond the sample, and the signal from the transmitted light at λ1 is collected. (B) In our experiments we used the shown azobenzene polymer as the photochromic layer. These molecules switch from the trans to the cis isomer when illuminated by λ1 = 405nm and recover to the original trans form when illuminated by λ2 = 532nm.
). The size of this optically confined nanoscale probe is not limited by diffraction, but by the photostationary state of the photochromic overlayer, which is dictated by its material parameters and the intensity ratio at the two wavelengths [15

15. R. Menon and H. I. Smith, “Absorbance-modulation optical lithography,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 23(9), 2290–2294 (2006). [CrossRef]

]. In the past, we have successfully applied absorbance modulation to nanopatterning [16

16. R. Menon, H.-Y. Tsai, and S. W. Thomas 3rd, “Far-field generation of localized light fields using absorbance modulation,” Phys. Rev. Lett. 98(4), 043905 (2007). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

18

18. H.-Y. Tsai, H. I. Smith, and R. Menon, “Reduction of focal-spot size using dichromats in absorbance modulation,” Opt. Lett. 33(24), 2916–2918 (2008). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

] and created lines whose widths were almost as narrow as one-tenth of λ1 [19

19. T. L. Andrew, H.-Y. Tsai, and R. Menon, “Confining light to deep subwavelength dimensions to enable optical nanopatterning,” Science 324(5929), 917–921 (2009). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

].

In order to achieve practical throughputs, multiple probes are necessary. Absorbance modulation is relatively easy to parallelize because high intensities are required and only far-field optics is used. In order to demonstrate this, we designed and fabricated a small array of phase-diffractive microlenses, each of which simultaneously generates in its focal plane a ring-shaped spot at λ2 and a round spot at λ1 [18

18. H.-Y. Tsai, H. I. Smith, and R. Menon, “Reduction of focal-spot size using dichromats in absorbance modulation,” Opt. Lett. 33(24), 2916–2918 (2008). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

,20

20. R. Menon, P. Rogge, and H.-Y. Tsai, “Design of diffractive lenses that generate optical nulls without phase singularities,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 26(2), 297–304 (2009). [CrossRef]

]. The spacing between the microlenses is chosen such that the signals generated from their focal regions are easily separated by the collection optics. A large array of such microlenses can provide massive parallelism and hence high throughput [21

21. D. Gil, R. Menon, D. J. D. Carter, and H. I. Smith, “Lithographic Patterning and Confocal Imaging with Zone Plates,” J. Vac. Sci. Technol. B 18(6), 2881–2885 (2000). [CrossRef]

].

2. Experiment

In our experimental system, a 405nm GaN diode laser (Power Technology, Inc) and a 532nm diode-pumped solid-state laser (Shanghai Dream Lasers, Inc.) illuminated the array of microlenses. Neutral density filters were used to adjust the intensities in the two beams independently. In this preliminary experiment, we used an array comprised of 10 microlenses. There were five pairs of microlenses each of NA ranging from 0.83 to 0.22. They were spaced by a distance of 140μm in the X and 160 μm in the Y direction (Fig. 2
Fig. 2 Schematic of the absorbance-modulation imaging (AMI) system. The inset on the left shows an optical image of the microlenses of various numerical apertures (NAs). The scanning stage has a clear aperture and the transmitted light is collected. The microlenses are spaced such that the signals are read out in parallel. The λ2 beam is not shown past the sample for clarity.
). The details of their fabrication and optical characterization were described earlier [18

18. H.-Y. Tsai, H. I. Smith, and R. Menon, “Reduction of focal-spot size using dichromats in absorbance modulation,” Opt. Lett. 33(24), 2916–2918 (2008). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

]. The sample, which consisted of features on a glass slide, was affixed on top of a piezoelectric scanning stage (Physik Instrumente). The stage had an open aperture through which the light at λ1 scattered in the forward direction from the sample was collected by a CCD camera (Sony). The signal from the different microlenses are separated on the CCD plane and hence collected in parallel similar to a system described earlier [21

21. D. Gil, R. Menon, D. J. D. Carter, and H. I. Smith, “Lithographic Patterning and Confocal Imaging with Zone Plates,” J. Vac. Sci. Technol. B 18(6), 2881–2885 (2000). [CrossRef]

]. Scattered light at λ2 was filtered out. A schematic of our optical system is shown in Fig. 2. Before imaging, the surfaces of the microlens array and that of the sample were made parallel, and the microlens array was focused onto the sample using piezoelectric actuators following a procedure we developed previously for lithography [21

21. D. Gil, R. Menon, D. J. D. Carter, and H. I. Smith, “Lithographic Patterning and Confocal Imaging with Zone Plates,” J. Vac. Sci. Technol. B 18(6), 2881–2885 (2000). [CrossRef]

]. At each scan location, the sample was illuminated simultaneously by both wavelengths, and the position and signal data were collected. The signal was acquired after a delay of 1s at each location in order to ensure that the photostationary state was reached (see section 4). The sample was stepped in a raster fashion. A step-size of 25nm was used in the results presented here unless noted otherwise. A bilinear interpolation algorithm was used to smooth the data with a pixel size of 5nm unless noted otherwise. In this implementation, the 1s delay during signal acquisition limits the overall imaging speed. In the future, this can be avoided by increasing the incident light intensities and using thermally stable photochromic molecules. Therefore, each pixel of the image took a little more than 1s to acquire. Although these preliminary experiments were slow, they demonstrate the feasibility of parallelization and potential for faster imaging.

The intensity profiles of the beams at the two wavelengths were measured with a CCD camera. By measuring the total power within these beams, we deduced the power density incident on the microlens array. Since the area covered by the microlenses was much smaller than that of both the beams, we assumed that intensity incident on the microlenses was uniform. To compute the peak intensity in the focal plane of each microlens, we first simulated the normalized focal intensity distribution using a scalar Fresnel-Kirchoff diffraction formulation. This simulation has been verified by experiments previously [18

18. H.-Y. Tsai, H. I. Smith, and R. Menon, “Reduction of focal-spot size using dichromats in absorbance modulation,” Opt. Lett. 33(24), 2916–2918 (2008). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

]. Then, the peak intensity, Ipeak, was computed as
Ipeak=IinπR20IPSF(r)rdr,
where Iin is the incident (uniform) intensity, R is the radius of the microlens, and IPSF(r) is the normalized focal intensity distribution (also referred to as the point-spread function or PSF). Note that the peak intensities will be different for microlenses of different NAs due to their distinct PSFs.

3. Results

We imaged a resolution standard containing dense line/space patterns. These gratings of period 500nm were patterned on a glass slide using interference lithography, and transferred into a 50nm-thick film of chromium using a lift-off process. We used an azobenzene polymer as the photochromic material for our experiments [see Fig. 1(B)] [16

16. R. Menon, H.-Y. Tsai, and S. W. Thomas 3rd, “Far-field generation of localized light fields using absorbance modulation,” Phys. Rev. Lett. 98(4), 043905 (2007). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

]. This polymer was synthesized using a literature process [22

22. M.-S. Ho, A. Natansohn, C. Barrett, and P. Rochon, “Azo polymers for reversible optical storage. The effect of polarity of the azobenzene groups,” Can. J. Chem. 73(11), 1773–1778 (1995). [CrossRef]

,23

23. C. Barrett, A. Natansohn, and P. Rochon, “Cis-Trans Thermal Isomerization Rates of Bound and Doped Azobenzenes in a Series of Polymers,” Chem. Mater. 7(5), 899–903 (1995). [CrossRef]

]. The sample was spin-coated with a 220nm thick film of the polymer. Figure 3(A)
Fig. 3 Absorbance-modulation imaging of periodic metal lines. (A) Transmitted-light images of a 500nm-period grating in a 50nm-thick layer of chromium on glass, taken with only λ1 = 405nm (top) and with both λ1 = 405nm and λ2 = 532nm (bottom). (B) Average linescans through the images in (A). The image contrast is increased by a factor of ~2 due to absorbance modulation. The sample was overcoated with 220nm of the azobenzene polymer. The numerical aperture (NA) of the microlens was 0.83. The signals were collected in transmission. The peak focal intensities at λ1 and λ2 incident on the sample were 34.6W/m2 and 0.4W/m2, respectively.
shows the images of a 500nm period line/space pattern obtained using a microlens of numerical aperture (NA) = 0.83. On top is the image taken with only λ1 ( = 405nm) illumination. The bottom image is of the same region but taken with both λ1 and λ2 ( = 532nm) illumination. Even at relatively low peak intensities at λ2 (0.4W/m2), it is clear that the image contrast is improved. Figure 3(B) shows the averaged linescan of the images in Fig. 3(A). The solid line shows the scan with only λ1-illumination, whereas the dashed line depicts the scan with both λ1 and λ2 beams. Absorbance modulation clearly increases the image contrast. The contrast, K is defined as
K=ImaxIminImax+Imin,
where <Imax> and <Imin> are the average maximum and minimum signal values in the peaks and valleys, respectively. Note that these images were taken in transmission, i.e., the images are reversed in tone with respect to the object.

We created an alternative resolution standard by dispersing gold nanoparticles (British Biocell International) on a glass slide. Gold nanoparticles of various nominal sizes in water (with sodium citrate as a buffer) were dispersed either by a puddle-drop method or by spin-casting onto a clean glass slide. The slide was dried in an oven at 92 degrees Celsius for about 20 minutes. Subsequently, the slides were spin-coated with a 220nm thick film of the azobenzene polymer. Figure 4(A)
Fig. 4 (A) Schematic of parallel imaging. The array of microlenses is illuminated by both wavelengths. Each microlens forms a focused node-spot pair that probes the sample. The transmitted light at λ1 (the signal) is collected on a CCD. Since the focii of the microlenses are far apart, the signals are spatially separated on the CCD camera as indicated on the schematic on the right. (B)-(D) Transmission images of 10nm gold nanoparticles randomly dispersed on a glass slide. Top row shows images taken with only λ1 = 405nm. Bottom row shows images of the corresponding regions on the sample taken with both λ1 = 405nm and λ2 = 532nm. The images in each row were acquired by different microlenses in parallel. The images were taken with microlenses of NA = 0.83 in (B) and (C), and NA = 0.55 in (D). There was a slight shift in the sample between the scans shown in the top and bottom rows. The signal levels in each image are normalized. The peak focal intensities at λ1 and λ2 incident on the sample were 34.6W/m2 and 334W/m2 in (B) and (C), and 3.4W/m2 and 37.2W/m2 in (D), respectively. The step-size for the top row during image acquisition was 100nm.
shows a schematic of the parallel-imaging system and the separation of the multiple signals on the camera. Figures 4(B)4(D) show images of three different regions of one such slide on which 10nm gold nanoparticles were dispersed. The images in the top row were taken with only λ1 = 405nm. The images in the bottom row depict the corresponding regions that were imaged with both the wavelengths. The three images in each row were collected simultaneously with three different microlenses, thereby demonstrating parallelism. The images in (B) and (C) were obtained with two different microlenses, each of NA = 0.83, while those in (D) were obtained with a third microlens of NA = 0.55. The comparison of the corresponding top and bottom images in all three cases confirm that absorbance modulation is able to resolve structures that are otherwise not discernible. For example, in Fig. 4(D), structures as small as 200nm (full-width at half-maximum) are clearly identified. At NA = 0.55 and λ = 405nm, the Abbé diffraction limit is approximately 370nm. Clearly 200nm structures are not resolved without absorbance modulation. Note that the signal represents light that transmits through the gaps between clusters of nanoparticles on the sample.

Figure 5
Fig. 5 (A) Schematic of sample, a glass slide with gold nanoparticles randomly dispersed on the surface. The slide was coated with 220nm of the azobenzene polymer. Note that the signal is composed of light transmitted through the gaps between the nanoparticles. (B)-(C) Images of 100nm gold nanoparticles taken by a microlens of NA = 0.7 with only λ1 = 405nm (B) and with both λ1 = 405nm and λ2 = 532nm (C). The peak focal intensities at λ1 and λ2 incident on the sample were 21.23W/m2 in (B) and 13.36W/m2 and 373W/m2 in (C), respectively. (D)-(F) Images of 10nm gold nanoparticles dispersed on a glass slide taken with a microlens of NA = 0.55. The peak focal intensities at λ1 and λ2 incident on the sample were 2.95W/m2 and 50W/m2 in (D), 2.16W/m2 and 50 W/m2 in (E), and 1.42W/m2 and 50W/m2 in (F), respectively. As the ratio of the intensity at λ2 to that at λ1 increases (from (D) to (F)), nanoscale structural details are revealed. (G) Magnified image of the area within the white square in (F). Some possible geometries of nanoparticle clusters are outlined with black dashed lines. Two (possibly) single nanoparticles spaced by a distance of 40nm is clearly resolved. (H) Signal cross-sections through white lines shown in (D)-(F). When the intensity ratio of λ2 to λ1 is sufficiently high, structures that are ~50nm apart are revealed. A bicubic interpolation from the raw image data was used in (G) and (H).
shows images of nanoparticles on glass when the intensity ratio of λ2 to that at λ1 is large enough to overcome the far-field diffraction barrier. Figure 5(A) is a schematic of the sample being imaged. The sample consisted of 100nm gold nanoparticles (overcoated with 220nm of the azobenzene polymer). The images were taken with a microlens of NA = 0.7 with only λ1 (B), and with both λ1 and λ2 (C). Gaps between the nanoparticle clusters as small as 78nm are resolved when both wavelengths are used. Figures 5(D)5(F) show images of the same region on a glass slide dispersed with 10nm gold nanoparticles taken at different ratios of the peak focal intensity at λ2 to that at λ1 (I2peak/I1peak). Figure 5(E) shows a magnified view of the region denoted by a white square in Fig. 5(F). Clusters of nanoparticles are evident and some of these are denoted by black dashed lines for illustration. Notably, two (possibly) single nanoparticles spaced by a distance of about 40nm are clearly resolved. Figure 5(H) shows the intensities along the white lines in Figs. 5(D)5(F). As the ratio of intensity at λ2 to that at λ1 increases, the size of the probe decreases and finer structural details such as a 50nm gap between nanoparticle clusters are revealed.

4. Imaging with a photo-transient probe

When the photochromic overlayer is illuminated by the two wavelengths of light, the ensuing photoreactions occur at rates that increase with the incident intensities [15

15. R. Menon and H. I. Smith, “Absorbance-modulation optical lithography,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 23(9), 2290–2294 (2006). [CrossRef]

]. As light propagates through the layer, the local absorbance evolves as well. Finally, a dynamic equilibrium between the two reactions is reached, which is referred to generally as a photostationary state. Once the photostationary state is reached, the absorbance of the photochromic layer (and hence, the width of the transmitted light at λ1) doesn’t change with time. This provides a robust probe, which can then be used for imaging. This phenomenon is illustrated schematically in Fig. 6
Fig. 6 Transient behaviour of light in photochromic layer, when illuminated from the top by a focused spot at λ1 and a focused node at λ2. (A) Normalized intensity distribution of λ1 inside the photochromic layer for different instances of time after both sources are turned on. As the beam propagates through the material, it also spreads in the lateral direction, making the subsequent “probe” larger. (B) Cross-section of normalized intensity distributions at the bottom of the photochromic layer at the same three instances of time shown in A. The width of the mainlobe increases with time as do the intensities of the sidelobes. The peak intensity also increases with time although it is not evident in the normalized plots. The images are only intended for illustration and are not actual simulations.
. Figure 6(A) shows the normalized intensity distribution of light at λ1 within the photochromic layer, when this layer is illuminated by a focused node at λ2 and a focused spot at λ1. As time progresses, the λ1 spot “punches” more and more through the photochromic layer. Figure 6(B) plots the normalized intensity distribution of λ1 (or the probe) at the bottom of the photochromic layer. As time progresses, the mainlobe of the probe increases and the sidelobes gain in strength. Therefore the probe is smaller at earlier times. This raises an interesting possibility of using this smaller photo-transient probe for higher-resolution imaging.

We explored this effect by varying the delay from when the stage reaches a specific position and when the signal is acquired on the CCD. Figure 7
Fig. 7 Effect of delay between start of illumination and signal acquisition. The figure shows images of 100nm gold nanoparticles dispersed on a glass slide imaged with microlenses of NA = 0.83 (A) and NA = 0.7 (B). A delay of 1 second was used for the top images, while a delay of 5 seconds was used for the bottom images. The peak intensities at λ1 and λ2 were (A) I1peak = 0.38W/m2, I2peak = 0.05W/m2, and (B) I1peak = 0.25W/m2, I2peak = 0.04W/m2, respectively. For longer delay times, the size of the probe beam (at λ1) increases as the azobenzene layer evolves to its photostationary state. This was confirmed by the poorer contrast in the images with longer delays (bottom row). Note that the images in each row were acquired at the same time by two different microlenses, further demonstrating the potential for parallelism. The step-size for these images was 100nm and no interpolation was used.
shows the images taken with absorbance modulation of a glass slide dispersed with 100nm gold nanoparticles. When the delay increased from 1s to 5s, the contrast as well as resolution of the images became worse. This indicates that the probe size increases as the azobenzene layer evolves towards its photostationary state under these illumination conditions.

To study this effect further, we varied the intensity of the λ2 beam and acquired images with various programmed delays. It was observed that the effect of the delay is negligible at high intensities of either λ1 or λ2. This is expected since the azobenzene layer evolves towards its photostationary state at a rate that is dependent on the incident intensity [16

16. R. Menon, H.-Y. Tsai, and S. W. Thomas 3rd, “Far-field generation of localized light fields using absorbance modulation,” Phys. Rev. Lett. 98(4), 043905 (2007). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

]. In Fig. 8
Fig. 8 Images of the same region of a resolution-test structure taken with no delay (left) and with a delay of 0.5s (right). The images were acquired with a microlens of NA = 0.83. The peak intensities of λ1 and λ2 were 34.6W/m2 and 334W/m2, respectively. Higher intensities force the azobenzene layer to reach the photostationary state much faster, and the effect of delay on the images vanishes. The step-size for these images was 250nm and no data interpolation was used.
, we show images of the same region on a resolution test sample, but with different delays of 0s (no programmed delay) and 0.5s. Since the peak intensity at λ2 is high (334W/m2), the photostationary state is reached in much less than 0.5s and the images are similar.

For the images reported in Figs. 35, we used a delay of 1s. It was observed that at the intensities of λ2 and λ1 used in those images, the effect of the photochemical transients could be safely ignored when a delay of 1s was incorporated. Nevertheless, the results presented in this section suggest the possibility of imaging with a transient probe, whose size can be significantly smaller than the size of the corresponding probe in the photostationary state. However, such imaging at high resolution would require a relatively sensitive detector.

5. Conclusion

Absorbance modulation provides the means to perform near-field scanning optical imaging without bringing a physical nanoscale probe in close proximity to the sample. This technique does not rely on fluorescence and utilizes low light intensities. These novel attributes enable parallelization with the potential for high-speed imaging. However, it is clearly limited to surface (2D) imaging. In this article, we described preliminary results that indicate imaging of structures spaced by distances as small as λ1/10. The practically achievable resolution is limited by the thermal instability of the cis (transparent) isomer of the azobenzene. This effect was discussed earlier [19

19. T. L. Andrew, H.-Y. Tsai, and R. Menon, “Confining light to deep subwavelength dimensions to enable optical nanopatterning,” Science 324(5929), 917–921 (2009). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

] and we expect thermally stable photochromic molecules to enable macro-molecular resolution.

Acknowledgments

We thank Francesco Stellacci and Timothy Swager for advice on synthesis of the photochromic molecules, Henry Smith for comments on the manuscript, James Daley for assistance with the fabrication of the resolution standards, and Mark Mondol for assistance with the electron-beam lithography. This work made use of MIT’s shared facility for scanning-electron-beam lithography in the Research Laboratory of Electronics. H-Y. T. was partially funded by an ignition grant from the MIT Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation.

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E. Betzig and R. J. Chichester, “Single molecules observed by near-field scanning optical microscopy,” Science 262(5138), 1422–1425 (1993). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

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H. G. Hansma, “Varieties of imaging with scanning probe microscopes,” Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 96(26), 14678–14680 (1999). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

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P. Bourgeat, F. Meriaudeau, K. W. Tobin, and P. Gorria, “Content based segmentation of patterned wafers,” J. Electron. Imaging 13(3), 428–435 (2004). [CrossRef]

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S. Tueber, A. Bzdurek, A. C. Durr, J. Heumann, and C. Holfeld, “Limitations of optical reticle inspection for 45-nm node and beyond,” Proc. SPIE 6349, 63490T/1–10 (2006).

12.

K. Huang, J. Lee, Y. Wen, and J. Opsal, “Application of scatterometry for evaluation of lithographic process and OPC model generation,” Proc. SPIE 5752, 536–545 (2005). [CrossRef]

13.

H. Hsu-Ting and F. L. Terry, “Spectroscopic ellipsometry and reflectometry from gratings (Scatterometry) for critical dimension measurement and in situ, real-time process monitoring,” Thin Solid Films 455–456, 828–836 (2004).

14.

Y. Choi, M. Kim, S. Oh, and O. Han, “CD measurement evaluation on periodic patterns between optic tools and CD-SEM,” Proc. SPIE 6349, 6491N/1–8 (2006).

15.

R. Menon and H. I. Smith, “Absorbance-modulation optical lithography,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 23(9), 2290–2294 (2006). [CrossRef]

16.

R. Menon, H.-Y. Tsai, and S. W. Thomas 3rd, “Far-field generation of localized light fields using absorbance modulation,” Phys. Rev. Lett. 98(4), 043905 (2007). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

17.

H.-Y. Tsai, G. W. Wallraff, and R. Menon, “Spatial-frequency multiplication via absorbance modulation,” Appl. Phys. Lett. 91(9), 094103 (2007). [CrossRef]

18.

H.-Y. Tsai, H. I. Smith, and R. Menon, “Reduction of focal-spot size using dichromats in absorbance modulation,” Opt. Lett. 33(24), 2916–2918 (2008). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

19.

T. L. Andrew, H.-Y. Tsai, and R. Menon, “Confining light to deep subwavelength dimensions to enable optical nanopatterning,” Science 324(5929), 917–921 (2009). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

20.

R. Menon, P. Rogge, and H.-Y. Tsai, “Design of diffractive lenses that generate optical nulls without phase singularities,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 26(2), 297–304 (2009). [CrossRef]

21.

D. Gil, R. Menon, D. J. D. Carter, and H. I. Smith, “Lithographic Patterning and Confocal Imaging with Zone Plates,” J. Vac. Sci. Technol. B 18(6), 2881–2885 (2000). [CrossRef]

22.

M.-S. Ho, A. Natansohn, C. Barrett, and P. Rochon, “Azo polymers for reversible optical storage. The effect of polarity of the azobenzene groups,” Can. J. Chem. 73(11), 1773–1778 (1995). [CrossRef]

23.

C. Barrett, A. Natansohn, and P. Rochon, “Cis-Trans Thermal Isomerization Rates of Bound and Doped Azobenzenes in a Series of Polymers,” Chem. Mater. 7(5), 899–903 (1995). [CrossRef]

OCIS Codes
(100.6640) Image processing : Superresolution
(180.0180) Microscopy : Microscopy
(180.4243) Microscopy : Near-field microscopy

ToC Category:
Microscopy

History
Original Manuscript: May 3, 2010
Revised Manuscript: June 28, 2010
Manuscript Accepted: June 29, 2010
Published: July 14, 2010

Virtual Issues
Vol. 5, Iss. 12 Virtual Journal for Biomedical Optics

Citation
Hsin-Yu Tsai, Samuel W. Thomas, and Rajesh Menon, "Parallel scanning-optical nanoscopy with optically confined probes," Opt. Express 18, 16014-16024 (2010)
http://www.opticsinfobase.org/oe/abstract.cfm?URI=oe-18-15-16014


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References

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  14. Y. Choi, M. Kim, S. Oh, and O. Han, “CD measurement evaluation on periodic patterns between optic tools and CD-SEM,” Proc. SPIE 6349, 6491N/1–8 (2006).
  15. R. Menon and H. I. Smith, “Absorbance-modulation optical lithography,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 23(9), 2290–2294 (2006). [CrossRef]
  16. R. Menon, H.-Y. Tsai, and S. W. Thomas, “Far-field generation of localized light fields using absorbance modulation,” Phys. Rev. Lett. 98(4), 043905 (2007). [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  17. H.-Y. Tsai, G. W. Wallraff, and R. Menon, “Spatial-frequency multiplication via absorbance modulation,” Appl. Phys. Lett. 91(9), 094103 (2007). [CrossRef]
  18. H.-Y. Tsai, H. I. Smith, and R. Menon, “Reduction of focal-spot size using dichromats in absorbance modulation,” Opt. Lett. 33(24), 2916–2918 (2008). [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  19. T. L. Andrew, H.-Y. Tsai, and R. Menon, “Confining light to deep subwavelength dimensions to enable optical nanopatterning,” Science 324(5929), 917–921 (2009). [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  20. R. Menon, P. Rogge, and H.-Y. Tsai, “Design of diffractive lenses that generate optical nulls without phase singularities,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 26(2), 297–304 (2009). [CrossRef]
  21. D. Gil, R. Menon, D. J. D. Carter, and H. I. Smith, “Lithographic Patterning and Confocal Imaging with Zone Plates,” J. Vac. Sci. Technol. B 18(6), 2881–2885 (2000). [CrossRef]
  22. M.-S. Ho, A. Natansohn, C. Barrett, and P. Rochon, “Azo polymers for reversible optical storage. The effect of polarity of the azobenzene groups,” Can. J. Chem. 73(11), 1773–1778 (1995). [CrossRef]
  23. C. Barrett, A. Natansohn, and P. Rochon, “Cis-Trans Thermal Isomerization Rates of Bound and Doped Azobenzenes in a Series of Polymers,” Chem. Mater. 7(5), 899–903 (1995). [CrossRef]

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