Nonlinear Abbe theory

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Abstract

All limitations commonly associated with imaging, such as resolution, field of view and depth of field, arise from linear theory1. Nonlinear optics can break these limits by exploiting the presence and interaction of many photons at once. To date, nearly all nonlinear imaging techniques have relied on point processes, such as two-photon fluorescence2 or harmonic effects3, in which the temporal frequency is the relevant parameter. These methods ignore the spatial content of the object, typically require scanning to record a whole image, and remain restricted by linear propagation from the sample to the detector. Spatial nonlinearity can overcome these issues by mixing modes with high and low spatial frequencies. Here, we generalize Abbe's theory of diffraction1 to include nonlinear propagation and show that wave mixing can be treated as a self-induced structured illumination. We demonstrate this experimentally by nonlinearly enhancing a standard imaging system beyond its conventional limits.

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Figure 1: Linear versus nonlinear Abbe theory.
Figure 2: Experimental set-up.
Figure 3: Field-of-view enhancement via spatial nonlinearity.
Figure 4: Bandwidth extrapolation via spatial nonlinearity.
Figure 5: Super-resolution via spatial nonlinearity.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research. The authors thank N. Pégard for valuable discussions.

Author information

C.B. and J.W.F. conceived and designed the experiments. C.B. performed the experiments and simulations. Both authors analysed the data and wrote the manuscript.

Correspondence to Jason W. Fleischer.

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Competing interests

C. Barsi and J. W. Fleischer are named inventors on US patent 8,427,650 (issued 23 April 2013), which is related to techniques described in this Letter.

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Barsi, C., Fleischer, J. Nonlinear Abbe theory. Nature Photon 7, 639–643 (2013) doi:10.1038/nphoton.2013.171

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