A new microscopy method for multi diffraction-limited spot illumination is based on extraordinary light transmission through a periodic metal grid (typical period of 600 nm) of sub-wavelength holes (150 nm). Multiple spots illuminate a fluorescently labeled sample and the emission is collected by far-field optics. Theoretical comparison with a confocal microscope reveals equivalent spot sizes and a scanning method with the advantage of multiple illumination spots. The system is used to measure the actual transmitted field with a fluorescent sample in far-field. The obtained results are consistent with the theoretical prediction and provide a proof of concept of the midfield microscope.
The knowledge of the near-field of extraordinary transmission through hole-arrays is mostly theoretical; there is less experimental validation of the theory. We study the near-field properties by measuring fluorescent molecules that are immersed in a solution and their Brownian motion. The measurements are performed by filling the space above the hole-array with fluorescent solution and exciting these molecules through the hole-array. By measuring both the fluorescence and the direct exciting light, it is possible to learn about the near-field properties.
When light passes through a hole smaller than the wavelength of the light, the transmission is very low and the light is diffracted. This however changes if holes are arranged in a periodic array on metal. In that case the light couples to surface plasmons; this results in enhanced transmission, spectral selection and a small angular diffraction.
We develop a novel microscopic method based on a periodic hole-array, which will be used as a multiple-apertures near-field source for illuminating a biological sample while the light is collected in far-field. The measurement speed is high, due to the use of an array instead of a single source. The main advantage of this microscope originates from the low diffraction of light through a relatively thick sample with enhanced transmission. It results in the ability to measure the samples interior and 3D reconstruction can be made by semi-confocal techniques. This overcomes the major limitation of near-field methods for which only a shallow layer of the surface (~20 nm) is detectable.
For our measurements we use glass coated devices. The holes are processed with a focused ion beam. The photon-plasmon coupling process is characterized as a function of the wavelength. Our experiments aim on gaining a better understanding of the transmission process. We tested the dependence of the transmitted spectrum on angle of incidence was tested as well as far-field spectral imaging measurements of the transmission in both Koehler and collimated light illumination. The results as well as the description of the microscope that we are constructing are presented.
Recently, an extraordinary transmission of light through small holes (<200 nm) in a thin metallic film has been described. This phenomenon has been shown to be the result of the photon-plasmon interaction in thin films where a periodic structure (such as a set of holes) is embedded in the film. One of the extraordinary results is that the beam that passes through a hole has a very small diffraction in extreme contrast to the wide angle predicted by diffraction theory.
Based on this effect, we propose here a new type of microscopy that we term mid-field microscopy. It combines an illumination of the sample through a metallic hole-array with far-field collection optics, a scanning mechanism and a CCD. When compared to other high resolution methods, what we suggest here is relatively simple because it is based on a thin metallic film with an array of nano-sized holes. Such a method can be widely used in high-resolution microscopy and provide a novel simple-to-use tool in many life-sciences laboratories.
When compared to near-field scanning optical microscopy (NSOM), the suggested mid-field method provides a significant improvement. This is chiefly for three reasons: 1. The penetration depth of the microscope increases from a few nanometers to a few micrometers, hence the name mid-field microscope. 2. It allows one to measure an image faster because the image is measured through many holes in parallel rather then through a single fiber tip used in conventional near-field microscopy, and 3. It enables one to perform three-dimensional reconstruction of images due to a semi-confocal effect.
We describe the physical basics of the photon-plasmon interaction that allows the coupling of light to the surface plasmons and determines the main spectral characteristics of the device. This mechanism can be ascribed due to the super-periodicity of the electron oscillations on the metallic surface engendered by the grating-like structure of the hole-array.