Near-Field Optical Drilling of Sub-λ Pits in Thin Polymer Films

21 Aug 2017

Under UV illumination, polymer films can undergo chain scission and contract. Using this effect, tightly focused laser light is shown to develop runaway near-field concentration that drills sub-100 nm pits through a thin film. This subwavelength photolithography can be controlled in real time by monitoring laser scatter from the evolving holes, allowing systematic control of the void diameter. Our model shows how interference between the substrate and film together with near-field focusing by the evolving crevice directs this formation and predicts minimum pit sizes in films of 100 nm thickness on gold substrates. The smallest features so far are 60 nm diameter pits using 447 nm light focused onto polystyrene through a ×100 objective (NA = 0.8). Such arrays of pits can be easily used as masks for fabricating more complex nanostructures, such as plasmonic nanostructures and biomicrofluidic devices. This demonstration shows the potential for harnessing near-field feedback in optical direct-writing for nanofabrication.