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New research field promises radical advances in optical technologies
Date:10/16/2008

engineers to design and build a "planar magnifying hyperlens" that would drastically improve the power and resolution of light microscopes.

"The hyperlens is probably the most exciting and promising metamaterial application to date," Shalaev said. "The first hyperlens, proposed independently by Evgenii Narimanov at Princeton and Nader Engheta at the University of Pennsylvania and their co-workers, was cylindrical in shape. Transformation optics, however, enables a hyperlens in a planar form, which is important because you could just simply add this flat hyperlens to conventional microscopes and see things 10 times smaller than now possible. You could focus down to the nanoscale, much smaller than the wavelength of light, to actually see molecules like DNA, viruses and other objects that are now simply too small to see."

The hyperlens theoretically would compensate for the loss of a portion of the light transmitting fine details of an image as it passes through a lens. Lenses and imaging systems could be improved if this lost light, which scientists call "evanescent light," could be restored. Such a hyperlens would both magnify an image and convert this evanescent light so that it does not weaken with distance but continues to propagate.

Meta in Greek means beyond, so the term metamaterial means to create something that doesn't exist in nature.

Unlike natural materials, metamaterials are able to reduce the "index of refraction" to less than one or less than zero. Refraction occurs as electromagnetic waves, including light, bend when passing from one material into another. It causes the bent-stick-in-water effect, which occurs when a stick placed in a glass of water appears bent when viewed from the outside. Each material has its own refraction index, which describes how much light will bend in that particular material and defines how much the speed of light slows down while passing through a material.

Natural materials typ
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Contact: Emil Venere
venere@purdue.edu
765-494-4709
Purdue University
Source:Eurekalert  

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