Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Markus B. Raschke

Second Advisor

Andreas Becker


Driven by the progress in nanotechnology, imaging and spectroscopy tools with nanometer spatial resolution are needed for in situ material characterizations. Near-field optics provides a unique way to selectively excite and detect elementary electronic and vibrational interactions at the nanometer scale, through interactions of light with matter in the near-field region. This dissertation discusses the development and applications of near-field optical imaging techniques, including plasmonic material characterization, optical spectral nano-imaging and magnetic field detection using scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscopy (s-SNOM), and exploring new modalities of optical spectroscopy based on optical gradient force detection.

Firstly, the optical dielectric functions of one of the most common plasmonic materials – silver is measured with ellipsometry, and analyzed with the Drude model over a broad spectral range from visible to mid-infrared. This work was motivated by the conflicting results of previous measurements, and the need for accurate values for a wide range of applications of silver in plasmonics, optical antennas, and metamaterials. This measurement provides a reference for dielectric functions of silver used in metamaterials, plasmonics, and nanophotonics.

Secondly, I implemented an infrared s-SNOM instrument for spectroscopic nano-imaging at both room temperature and low temperature. As one of the first cryogenic s-SNOM instruments, the novel design concept and key specifications are discussed. Initial low-temperature and high-temperature performances of the instrument are examined by imaging of optical conductivity of vanadium oxides (VO2 and V2O3) across their phase transitions. The spectroscopic imaging capability is demonstrated on chemical vibrational resonances of Poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) and other samples.

The third part of this dissertation explores imaging of optical magnetic fields. As a proof- of-principle, the magnetic near-field response of a linear rod antenna is studied with Babinet’s principle. Babinet’s principle connects the magnetic field of a structure to the electric field of its complement structure. Using combined far- and near-field spectroscopy, imaging, and theory, I identify magnetic dipole and higher order bright and dark magnetic resonances at mid-infrared frequencies. From resonant length scaling and spatial field distributions, I confirm that the theoretical requirement of Babinet’s principle for a structure to be infinitely thin and perfectly conducting is still fulfilled to a good approximation in the mid-infrared. Thus Babinet’s principle provides access to spatial and spectral magnetic field properties, leading to targeted design and control of magnetic optical antennas.

Lastly, a novel form of nanoscale optical spectroscopy based on mechanical detection of optical gradient force is explored. It is to measure the optical gradient force between induced dipole moments of a sample and an atomic force microscope (AFM) tip. My study provides the theoretical basis in terms of spectral behavior, resonant enhancement, and distance dependence of the optical gradient force from numerical simulations for a coupled nanoparticle model geometry. I show that the optical gradient force is dispersive for local electronic and vibrational resonances, yet can be absorptive for collective polaronic excitations. This spectral behavior together with the distance dependence scaling provides the key characteristics for its measurement and distinction from competing processes such as thermal expansion. Furthermore, I provide a perspective for resonant enhancement and control of optical forces in general.