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Optically induced oxidation of hydrogen-passivated silicon surfaces using a scanning near-field optical microscope was achieved with both uncoated and aluminum-coated fiber probes. Line scans on amorphous silicon using uncoated fiber probes display a three-peak profile after etching in potassium hydroxide. Numerical simulations of the electromagnetic field around the probe–sample interaction region are used to explain the experimental observations. With an aluminum-coated fiber probe, lines of 35 nm in width were transferred into the amorphous silicon layer. © 1997 American Institute of Physics.