We investigate the nanoscale excitation of Ag nanocubes with coherent cathodoluminescence imaging spectroscopy (CL) to resolve the factors that determine the spatial resolution of CL as a deep-subwavelength imaging technique. The 10–30 keV electron beam coherently excites localized plasmons in 70 nm Ag cubes at 2.4 and 3.1 eV. The radiation from these plasmon modes is collected in the far-field together with the secondary electron intensity. CL line scans across the nanocubes show exponentially decaying tails away from the cube that reveal the evanescent coupling of the electron field to the resonant plasmon modes. The measured CL decay lengths range from 8 nm (10 keV) to 12 nm (30 keV) and differ from the calculated ones by only 1–3 nm. A statistical model of electron scattering inside the Ag nanocubes is developed to analyze the secondary electron images and compare them with the CL data. The Ag nanocube edges are derived from the CL line scans with a systematic error less than 3 nm. The data demonstrate that CL probes the electron-induced plasmon fields with nanometer accuracy.

European Research Council (ERC) , The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)
ACS Photonics
Photonic Materials

Schefold, J. D. D., Meuret, S., Schilder, N., Coenen, T., Agrawal, H., Garnett, E., & Polman, A. (2019). Spatial resolution of coherent cathodoluminescence super-resolution microscopy. ACS Photonics, 6(4), 1067–1072. doi:10.1021/acsphotonics.9b00164