New Nanobead-Powered 'Superlens' Extends The Limit Of The Microscope To A Record-Breaking Level

Posted: Aug 13 2016, 1:20pm CDT | by , Updated: Aug 13 2016, 2:54pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News


New Nanobead-Powered 'Superlens' Extends the Limit of the Microscope to a Record-Breaking Level
Credit: Bangor University Fudan University

New solid 3D superlens allow researchers to view details of an object to a level that was previously impossible

Scientists have designed a new superlens that takes magnifying capacity of a microscope to a whole new level.

The new 3D solid superlenses are powered by nanobeads and allow researchers to zero in on germs that are too small for regular microscopes to observe.

Recently, a team of international researchers has tested the capacity of newly developed superlens and observed the extremely intricate details of a Blu-ray DVD for the first time. The disc appears extremely smooth when we see it with naked eye or even with a standard microscope but new superlens reveals that its shiny surface is not as smooth as we think. New lens is so powerful that it can even see the groves containing the data on a disc that would otherwise not be possible to see. 

The new superlens is made of millions of tiny beads of titanium dioxide while each bead is just 15 nanometers across. These beams have a capacity to refract light. Collectively, they act like a lens and extend the resolving ability of the microscope to record-breaking levels. Precisely, nanobeads increase the magnification of traditional microscopes up to 5 times.

“Each sphere bends the light to a high magnitude and splits the light beam, creating millions of individual beams of light. It is these tiny beams which enable us to view previously unseen details.” Dr Zengbo Wang from Bangor University said.

Conventional microscopes cannot view an object smaller than 200 nanometers due to physical laws of light. This limitation has made it impossible for researchers to observe tiny objects in minutest detail. Extending the limit of the microscope’s resolution has been an aim for centuries. But until now, scientists have had trouble creating a superlens that had the right materials and structure to interact with visible light and improving its efficiency. To fabricate new lens, researches used tiny nanobeads of titanium dioxide which is a cheap and easily accessible substance.  Millions of tons titanium oxide is produced every year and used in a wide range of personal care products including sunscreens and powders. 

“We’ve used high-index titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles as the building element of the lens,” said Wang. “These nanoparticles are able to bend light to a higher degree than water. To explain when you putting a spoon into a cup of this material, if it were possible, you’d see a larger bend where your spoon enters the material than you would looking at the same spoon in a glass of water.”

Researchers believe these superlens hold promise for a wide range of fields like medicine and biology. For instance, it can be used to see viruses or germs that were previously unobservable and how they interact with medicines in real time.

“We have already viewed details to a far greater level than was previously possible.” said Wang. “The next challenge is to adapt the technology for use in biology and medicine. This would not require the current use of a combination of dyes and stains and laser light which change the sample being viewed. The new lens will be used to see germs and viruses not previously visible.”

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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