Called a metamaterial hyperlens, the lens may someday help detect some of the most lethal forms of cancer.
“Today’s high-resolution endoscopes can resolve objects to about 10,000 nanometers. The hyperlens could improve that to at least 250 nanometers or better,” said lead author Natalia Litchinitser from University at Buffalo (UB).
It could also lead to advancements in nanoelectronic manufacturing and boost scientists’ ability to examine single molecules — a development with implications in physics, chemistry, biology and other fields, the researchers said.
There is a great need in healthcare, nanotechnology and other areas to improve our ability to see tiny objects that elude even the most powerful optical systems.
“The hyperlens we are developing is, potentially, a giant step toward solving this problem,” Litchinitser added.
Conventional optical systems, such as microscopes and cameras, are limited by diffraction — a phenomena in which light bends as it passes around an edge or through a slit.
The new hyperlens overcomes the diffraction limit by transforming decaying evanescent waves into propagating waves.
The design of this metamaterial hyperlens overcomes the diffraction limit in visible frequency range.
“Such a tool could improve doctors’ ability to detect some of the most lethal forms of cancer, such as ovarian cancer,” the researchers said.
The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.