Construction of instruments with this capability is now possible because of a fundamental advance in the quality of an optical material used in hyperlensing, a method of creating lenses that can resolve objects much smaller than the wavelength of light. The achievement was reported by a team of researchers led by Joshua Caldwell, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Vanderbilt University, in a paper published Dec. 11 in the journal Nature Materials.
The optical material involved is hexagonal boron nitride (hBN), a natural crystal with hyperlensing properties. The best previously reported resolution using hBN was an object about 36 times smaller than the infrared wavelength used: about the size of the smallest bacteria. The new paper describes improvements in the quality of the crystal that enhance its potential imaging capability by about a factor of ten.
The researchers achieved this enhancement by making hBN crystals using isotopically purified boron. Natural boron contains …