Instead of concentric rings, UB researchers formed tiny slivers of gold and PMMA (a transparent thermoplastic) into a radial shape for hyperlens function across a wider range of wavelengths with lower losses. The design of this metamaterial hyperlens, which looks like a Slinky suspended in motion, overcomes the diffraction limit in visible frequency range. Moreover, it can be integrated with an optical waveguide, opening the door to hyperlens-based medical endoscopes.
More studies are required, but such a tool could improve doctors’ ability to detect some of the most lethal forms of cancer, such as ovarian cancer.
For example, 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. This is important because the earlier doctors are able to discover hard-to-find cancers, the more success they have treating the disease.
Another potential application centers on optical nanolithography, the process of passing light through a mask to a pattern on polymer film. Continuous improvement in this field is essential to building the next generation of optoelectronic devices, data storage drives, sensors and other gadgets.
The hyperlens also show promise in sequencing single molecules, a potential advancement with broad implications in numerous fields of research including physics, chemistry and biology.
Scientists at the University of Buffalo have created a prototype visible light “hyperlens” that may help image objects that were once only clearly viewable through electron microscopes (Credit: University of Buffalo)
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. An example of this are the closely spaced tracks of a DVD, which form a rainbow pattern when looking at the disk.
Diffraction sets a fundamental limit to the resolution of optical systems.
Scientists are working to solve diffraction with metamaterials, which are materials engineered to have properties not yet discovered in nature. Typically, the materials are arranged in repetitive patterns, often smaller in scale than the wavelengths of the phenomena they influence.
Metamaterial hyperlenses overcome the diffraction limit by transforming decaying evanescent waves into propagating waves. Once converted, the former decaying waves, which were commonly lost in conventional imaging, can be collected and transmitted using standard optical components.
Some of the first metamaterial hyperlenses consisted of tiny concentric rings of silver and dielectric (an insulating material). However, this design only works within a narrow range of wavelengths and it suffers from large losses of resonance.
A metamaterial hyperlens offers a solution to overcome the diffraction limit by transforming evanescent waves responsible for imaging subwavelength features of an object into propagating waves. However, the first realizations of optical hyperlenses were limited by significant resonance-induced losses. Here we report the experimental demonstration of a non-resonant waveguide-coupled hyperlens operating in the visible wavelength range. A detailed investigation of various materials systems proves that a radial fan-shaped configuration is superior to the concentric layer-based configuration in that it relies on non-resonant negative dielectric response, and, as a result, enables low-loss performance in the visible range.
SOURCES – Nature Communications, University of Buffalo