Apertureless scanning near-field optical microscopy is a method for obtaining subwavelength optical images of nanostructures. However, great care must be taken to avoid artifactual images. We report on one artifact related to the error signal in cantilever vibration amplitude when operating in tapping mode atomic force microscopy. The artifact is described experimentally and modeled by electromagnetic calculations based on the finite element method. We report specific steps to identify and avoid this artifact with experimental results on gold nanostructures. It is suggested that future apertureless scanning near-field optical microscopy studies verify that optical image does not correlate with error signal.
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