At left (A) is an image of an array of nanowires 60 nanometers wide created with the silver superlens. The center distance between each nanowire is 120 nanometers. To the right (B) is an image of the same nanowires. In this image, created without the superlens, the individual nanowires are not distinct. The scale bar on both images is 1 micrometer. (Image by Cheng Sun, UC Berkeley)
Shown is a drawing of nano-scale imaging using a silver superlens that achieves a resolution beyond the optical diffraction limit. The red line indicates the enhancement of "evanescent" waves as they pass through the superlens. (Image by Cheng Sun, UC Berkeley)
A group of scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, is giving new relevance to the term "sharper image" by creating a superlens that can overcome a limitation in physics that has historically constrained the resolution of optical images.
Using a thin film of silver as the lens and ultraviolet (UV) light, the researchers recorded the images of an array of nanowires and the word "NANO" onto an organic polymer at a resolution of about 60 nanometers. In comparison, current optical microscopes can only make out details down to one-tenth the diameter of a red blood cell, or about 400 nanometers.
The breakthrough, reported in the April 22 issue of the journal Science, opens the door to dramatic technological advances in nanoengineering that could eventually lead to DVDs that store the entire contents of the Library of Congress, and computer processors that can quickly search through such a huge volume of data, the researchers said.
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