Noble metal nanostructures yield confined optical fields on a nanometer scale due to plasmon resonances, and they have potentially novel applications in spectroscopic analysis, photochemical reactions, optical devices, bioimaging, and so forth. To design nanoscale confined optical fields for use in specific applications, visualization of the fields is needed to provide essential information. We adopted near-field optical microscopy to visualize the optical fields in the present study. Examples of the direct visualization of optical fields in metal nanostructures are presented together with the analysis of the unique spectroscopic characteristics based on near-field imaging. For single nanoparticles such as gold nanorods, the plasmon standing wave functions and/or enhanced local fields near the particles were visualized depending on the particle shapes and sizes. In the assembled nanoparticles, the enhanced optical fields at the gap sites between the particles were visualized, thus elucidating the mechanism of surface-enhanced Raman scattering. The characteristic optical fields for various other metal nanostructures are also discussed.
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