Secondary Electron Imaging of Light at the Nanoscale Academic Article uri icon


  • The interaction of fast electrons with metal atoms may lead to optical excitations. This exciting phenomenon forms the basis for the most powerful inspection methods in nanotechnology, such as cathodoluminescence and electron–energy loss spectroscopy. However, direct nanoimaging of light based on electrons is yet to be introduced. Here, we experimentally demonstrate simultaneous excitation and nanoimaging of optical signals using unmodified scanning electron microscope. We use high-energy electron beam for plasmon excitation and rapidly image the optical near fields using the emitted secondary electrons. We analyze dipole nanoantennas coupled with channel nanoplasmonic waveguides and observe both surface plasmons and surface plasmon polaritons with spatial resolution of 25 nm. Our experimental results are confirmed by rigorous numerical calculations based on full-wave solution of Maxwell’s equations, showing high correlation between optical near fields and secondary electrons images. This demonstration of optical near-field mapping using direct electron imaging provides essential insights to the exciting relations between electrons plasmons and photons, paving the way toward secondary electron-based plasmon analysis at the nanoscale.

publication date

  • January 1, 2017