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The application of a near-field optical device to the electrochemical deposition of submicron nickel dots on silicon is demonstrated. The silicon–electrolyte junction behaves like a Schottky diode where the electrolyte plays the role of the metal. The junction is reverse biased so that only a negligible dark current is flowing across the junction. The optical tip of the near-field device is used as a local lightsource to control a photocurrent on a submicron scale, which allows one to create submicron objects of nickel by locally triggering the electrochemical reduction of nickel ions. The effect of the lateral diffusion of the photogenerated carriers on the form of the deposited nickel dots is described by a two-dimensional carrier diffusion model. © 2001 American Institute of Physics.