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A super-oscillatory lens optical microscope for subwavelength imaging


The past decade has seen an intensive effort to achieve optical imaging resolution beyond the diffraction limit. Apart from the Pendry–Veselago negative index superlens1, implementation of which in optics faces challenges of losses and as yet unattainable fabrication finesse, other super-resolution approaches necessitate the lens either to be in the near proximity of the object or manufactured on it2,3,4,5,6, or work only for a narrow class of samples, such as intensely luminescent7,8 or sparse9 objects. Here we report a new super-resolution microscope for optical imaging that beats the diffraction limit of conventional instruments and the recently demonstrated near-field optical superlens and hyperlens. This non-invasive subwavelength imaging paradigm uses a binary amplitude mask for direct focusing of laser light into a subwavelength spot in the post-evanescent field by precisely tailoring the interference of a large number of beams diffracted from a nanostructured mask. The new technology, which—in principle—has no physical limits on resolution, could be universally used for imaging at any wavelength and does not depend on the luminescence of the object, which can be tens of micrometres away from the mask. It has been implemented as a straightforward modification of a conventional microscope showing resolution better than λ/6.

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Figure 1: Subwavelength imaging with a super-oscillatory lens.
Figure 2: Super-oscillatory imaging of complex objects.
Figure 3: Super-oscillatory imaging: experiment versus modelling.
Figure 4: The effect of noise on imaging.


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This work was supported by the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council under the Basic Technology (EP/F040644/1) and Nanostructured Photonic Metamaterials (EP/G060363/1) Programmes. The authors thank K. Dholakia, M. Mazilu, Y. Chen and A. D. Boardman for fruitful discussions and J. Y. Ou for assistance with nanofabrication.

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The principle of super-oscillatory imaging was suggested by N.I.Z. with contributions from M.R.D. and J.E.C.; J.L. and M.R.D. developed mathematical algorithms for designing the binary super-oscillatory lens and computed the lens design. T.R. nanofabricated the binary mask and test objects. Optical characterization and modelling of the super-oscillatory lens performance was undertaken by E.T.F.R., S.S. and T.R. E.T.F.R. and N.I.Z. designed the opto-mechanical construction of the imaging apparatus with contributions from J.E.C. E.T.F.R. wrote the imaging instrument software, performed the imaging experiments and data post-processing. N.I.Z. supervised the project and wrote the manuscript with contributions from all co-authors. All authors contributed to the discussions of results and planning of experiments.

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Correspondence to Nikolay I. Zheludev.

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Rogers, E., Lindberg, J., Roy, T. et al. A super-oscillatory lens optical microscope for subwavelength imaging. Nature Mater 11, 432–435 (2012).

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