Thejaswi U. Tumkur, Xiao Yang, Benjamin Cerjan, Naomi J. Halas, Peter Nordlander, and Isabell Thomann
The ability to image the optical near-fields of nanoscale structures, map their morphology, and concurrently obtain spectroscopic information, all with high spatiotemporal resolution, is a highly sought-after technique in nanophotonics. As a step toward this goal, we demonstrate the mapping of electromagnetic forces between a nanoscale tip and an optically excited sample consisting of plasmonic nanostructures with an imaging platform based on atomic force microscopy. We present the first detailed joint experimental–theoretical study of this type of photoinduced force microscopy. We show that the enhancement of near-field optical forces in gold disk dimers and nanorods follows the expected plasmonic field enhancements with strong polarization sensitivity. We then introduce a new way to evaluate optically induced tip–sample forces by simulating realistic geometries of the tip and sample. We decompose the calculated forces into in-plane and out-of-plane components and compare the calculated and measured force enhancements in the fabricated plasmonic structures. Finally, we show the usefulness of photoinduced force mapping for characterizing the heterogeneity of near-field enhancements in precisely e-beam fabricated nominally alike nanostructures - a capability of widespread interest for precise nanomanufacturing, SERS, and photocatalysis applications.