Near-field optical applications require the fast, stable, and reproducible fabrication of scanning near-field optical microscopy (SNOM) aperture probes in the submicrometer range. We have developed a stand-alone device for the electrolytic etching of nanoapertures with an integrated current and optical transmission monitoring and control. Probes with an aperture ranging from 50 to 100 nm were reproducibly fabricated with great reliability. With these probes, high resolution SNOM images of 100 nm test patterns and single dye molecules (Rhodamine 6G in poly(vinyl alcohol)) are measured and presented. Not requiring a SNOM setup, the stand-alone device is not only inexpensive and compact, but also insensitive to external disturbances.
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