Near-field focusing and magnification through self-assembled nanoscale spherical lenses

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It is well known that a lens-based far-field optical microscope cannot resolve two objects beyond Abbe’s diffraction limit. Recently, it has been demonstrated that this limit can be overcome by lensing effects driven by surface-plasmon excitation1,2,3, and by fluorescence microscopy driven by molecular excitation4. However, the resolution obtained using geometrical lens-based optics without such excitation schemes remains limited by Abbe’s law even when using the immersion technique5, which enhances the resolution by increasing the refractive indices of immersion liquids. As for submicrometre-scale or nanoscale objects, standard geometrical optics fails for visible light because the interactions of such objects with light waves are described inevitably by near-field optics6. Here we report near-field high resolution by nanoscale spherical lenses that are self-assembled by bottom-up integration7 of organic molecules. These nanolenses, in contrast to geometrical optics lenses, exhibit curvilinear trajectories of light, resulting in remarkably short near-field focal lengths. This in turn results in near-field magnification that is able to resolve features beyond the diffraction limit. Such spherical nanolenses provide new pathways for lens-based near-field focusing and high-resolution optical imaging at very low intensities, which are useful for bio-imaging, near-field lithography, optical memory storage, light harvesting, spectral signal enhancing, and optical nano-sensing.

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Figure 1: CHQ plano-spherical convex lenses.
Figure 2: Optical microscope/SEM images of CHQ lenses on patterned substrates.
Figure 3: Optical images and beam trajectories of alphabetical characters projected through CHQ lenses and PMMA disks.
Figure 4: Focal length changes for various sizes of CHQ lenses (fixed H/D = 0.35).


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We thank T. F. Heinz, C. K. Hong, J. H. Lee and W. J. Kim for discussions, and K. Cho, J. T. Han, J. W. Lee and C. S. Lee for assisting in characterization. This work was supported by the Korea Foundation for International Cooperation of Science and Technology (Global Research Laboratory programme), Korea Science and Engineering Foundation grants funded by the Korea Government (World Class University, R32-2008-000-10180-0, R33-2008-000-10138-0; EPB Center, 2009-0063312; 2009-0062808; 2009-0060271), the Brain Korea 21 (Korea Research Foundation), the National Science Foundation (NSF: CHE-0641523; ECCS-0747787) and the New York State Office of Science (NYSTAR).

Author Contributions J.Y.L. and B.H.H. conducted experiments (synthesis, characterization, optical measurements). Y.K. assisted in synthesis. R.B., B.H.H. and C.W.W. conducted electromagnetic simulations, and W.Y.K., S.K.M. and M.V.J. analysed the simulation results. L.J.K. assisted in the high-resolution optical imaging analysis. I.-C.H. conducted lens transfer and lens array formation. Keun S. Kim and J.Y.L. obtained micro-Raman spectra. P.K. supervised optical measurements. Kwang S. Kim supervised the whole project.

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Correspondence to Philip Kim or Kwang S. Kim.

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Lee, J., Hong, B., Kim, W. et al. Near-field focusing and magnification through self-assembled nanoscale spherical lenses. Nature 460, 498–501 (2009) doi:10.1038/nature08173

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