Z.B.Wang, B.S. Luk’yanchuk L. Li, P.L. Crouse, Z. liu, G. Dearden, K.G. Watkins
In surface nano-patterning using an atomic force microscope (AFM) tip in scanning tunnelling microscopy (STM)mode and illuminated by a laser, two controversial physical mechanisms exist in the literature: the field-enhancement (FE) model and the thermal-induced mechanical contact (TMC) model. Due to the presence of evanescent waves in the optical near-field, the exact calculation of the field distribution of the tip–sample system in micro/nano scales becomes complicated. There is a lack of understanding of the asymmetrically illuminated tip–sample system. In this paper, full 3D finite-difference time-domain (FDTD) analysis was carried out to investigate the field distribution in different tip–sample systems. The effects of different tip/sample materials (either dielectric or plasmonic material), the gap distance, and laser incidence angles on the field distribution/enhancement have been studied. For the first time, we have demonstrated two new effects which are helpful in distinguishing the controversial mechanisms: (1) on the sample surface, the field peak position has a shift away from the tip-axis at large angles of incidence, and (2) the field enhancement could depend strongly on the horizontal component (perpendicular to tip-axis) of the incident wave instead of the vertical component (along tip-axis). The optimal incident angle is around 30◦ for themaximum field under the tip. The existence of field-distribution nodes on the 3D tip surface that leads to the in-homogenous heating of the tip is also predicted.