Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Angular resolution


Suffering from giant size of objective lenses and infeasible manipulations of distant targets, telescopes could not seek helps from present super-resolution imaging, such as scanning near-field optical microscopy, perfect lens and stimulated emission depletion microscopy. In this paper, local light diffraction shrinkage associated with optical super-oscillatory phenomenon is proposed for real-time and optically restoring super-resolution imaging information in a telescope system. It is found that fine target features concealed in diffraction-limited optical images of a telescope could be observed in a small local field of view, benefiting from a relayed metasurface-based super-oscillatory imaging optics in which some local Fourier components beyond the cut-off frequency of telescope could be restored. As experimental examples, a minimal resolution to 0.55 of Rayleigh criterion is obtained, and imaging complex targets and large targets by superimposing multiple local fields of views are demonstrated as well. This investigation provides an access for real-time, incoherent and super-resolution telescopes without the manipulation of distant targets. More importantly, it gives counterintuitive evidence to the common knowledge that relayed optics could not deliver more imaging details than objective systems.

Concepts: Diffraction, Optics, Microscope, Wavelength, Lens, Telescope, F-number, Angular resolution


Colour produced by wavelength-dependent light scattering is a key component of visual communication in nature and acts particularly strongly in visual signalling by structurally-coloured animals during courtship. Two miniature peacock spiders (Maratus robinsoni and M. chrysomelas) court females using tiny structured scales (~ 40 × 10 μm2) that reflect the full visual spectrum. Using TEM and optical modelling, we show that the spiders' scales have 2D nanogratings on microscale 3D convex surfaces with at least twice the resolving power of a conventional 2D diffraction grating of the same period. Whereas the long optical path lengths required for light-dispersive components to resolve individual wavelengths constrain current spectrometers to bulky sizes, our nano-3D printed prototypes demonstrate that the design principle of the peacock spiders' scales could inspire novel, miniature light-dispersive components.

Concepts: Diffraction, Optics, Light, Electromagnetic radiation, Wavelength, Book of Optics, Diffraction grating, Angular resolution


Strain engineering is widely used in material science to tune the (opto-)electronic properties of materials and enhance the performance of devices. Two-dimensional atomic crystals are a versatile playground to study the influence of strain, as they can sustain very large deformations without breaking. Various optical techniques have been employed to probe strain in two-dimensional materials, including micro-Raman and photoluminescence spectroscopy. Here we demonstrate that optical second harmonic generation constitutes an even more powerful technique, as it allows extraction of the full strain tensor with a spatial resolution below the optical diffraction limit. Our method is based on the strain-induced modification of the nonlinear susceptibility tensor due to a photoelastic effect. Using a two-point bending technique, we determine the photoelastic tensor elements of molybdenum disulfide. Once identified, these parameters allow us to spatially image the two-dimensional strain field in an inhomogeneously strained sample.

Concepts: Diffraction, Optics, Fundamental physics concepts, Laser, Materials science, Nonlinear optics, Deformation, Angular resolution


We describe a 2 mg artificial elementary eye whose structure and functionality is inspired by compound eye ommatidia. Its optical sensitivity and electronic architecture are sufficient to generate the required signals for the measurement of local optic flow vectors in multiple directions. Multiple elementary eyes can be assembled to create a compound vision system of desired shape and curvature spanning large fields of view. The system configurability is validated with the fabrication of a flexible linear array of artificial elementary eyes capable of extracting optic flow over multiple visual directions.

Concepts: Photon, Retina, Eye, Visual perception, Visual system, Book of Optics, Ommatidium, Angular resolution


Light fields (LFs) have been shown to enable photorealistic visualization of complex scenes. In practice, however, an LF tends to have a relatively small angular range or spatial resolution, which limits the scope of virtual navigation. In this paper, we show how seamless virtual navigation can be enhanced by stitching multiple LFs. Our technique consists of two key components: LF registration and LF stitching. To register LFs, we use what we call the ray-space motion matrix (RSMM) to establish pairwise ray-ray correspondences. Using Pl ¨ucker coordinates, we show that the RSMM is a 5 6 matrix, which reduces to a 5 5 matrix under pure translation and/or in-plane rotation. The final LF stitching is done using multi-resolution, high-dimensional graph-cut in order to account for possible scene motion, imperfect RSMM estimation, and/or undersampling. We show how our technique allows us to create LFs with various enhanced features: extended horizontal and/or vertical field-of-view, larger synthetic aperture and defocus blur, and larger parallax.

Concepts: Optics, Virtual, The Final, Focus, SQL, Astronomical interferometer, Aperture synthesis, Angular resolution


Doping-induced solubility control is a patterning technique for semiconducting polymers, which utilizes the reduction in polymer solubility upon p-type doping to provide direct, optical control of film topography and doping level. In situ direct-write patterning and imaging are demonstrated, revealing sub-diffraction-limited topographic features. Photoinduced force microscopy shows that doping level can be optically modulated with similar resolution.

Concepts: Protein, Diffraction, Optics, Topography, Diffraction grating, P-type semiconductor, Angular resolution, Fraunhofer diffraction


Angular momentum division has emerged as a physically-orthogonal multiplexing method in high-capacity optical information technologies. However, the typical bulky elements used for information retrieval from the overall diffracted field based on the interference method imposes a fundamental limit toward realizing on-chip multiplexing. We demonstrate non-interference angular momentum multiplexing using a mode-sorting nano-ring aperture with a chip-scale footprint as small as 4.2 × 4.2 μm(2), where nano-ring slits exhibit a distinctive outcoupling efficiency on tightly-confined plasmonic modes. The non-resonant mode-sorting sensitivity and scalability of our approach enable on-chip parallel multiplexing over a bandwidth of 150 nm in the visible wavelength range. The results offer the possibility of ultrahigh-capacity and miniaturized nanophotonic devices harnessing angular momentum division.

Concepts: Diffraction, Optics, Angular momentum, Light, Electromagnetic radiation, Wavelength, Visible spectrum, Angular resolution


Cervical cancer remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality among women, especially in the developing world. Increased synthesis of proteins, lipids and nucleic acids is a pre-condition for the rapid proliferation of cancer cells. We show that scanning near-field optical microscopy, in combination with an infrared free electron laser (SNOM-IR-FEL), is able to distinguish between normal and squamous low-grade and high-grade dyskaryosis, and between normal and mixed squamous/glandular pre-invasive and adenocarcinoma cervical lesions, at designated wavelengths associated with DNA, Amide I/II and lipids. These findings evidence the promise of the SNOM-IR-FEL technique in obtaining chemical information relevant to the detection of cervical cell abnormalities and cancer diagnosis at spatial resolutions below the diffraction limit (≥0.2 μm). We compare these results with analyses following attenuated total reflection Fourier-transform infrared (ATR-FTIR) spectroscopy; although this latter approach has been demonstrated to detect underlying cervical atypia missed by conventional cytology, it is limited by a spatial resolution of ~3 μm to 30 μm due to the optical diffraction limit.

Concepts: Protein, Diffraction, X-ray, Optics, Electromagnetic radiation, Laser, Wavelength, Angular resolution


Imaging the optical properties of individual nanosystems beyond fluorescence can provide a wealth of information. However, the minute signals for absorption and dispersion are challenging to observe, and only specialized techniques requiring sophisticated noise rejection are available. Here we use signal enhancement in a high-finesse scanning optical microcavity to demonstrate ultra-sensitive imaging. Harnessing multiple interactions of probe light with a sample within an optical resonator, we achieve a 1,700-fold signal enhancement compared with diffraction-limited microscopy. We demonstrate quantitative imaging of the extinction cross-section of gold nanoparticles with a sensitivity less than 1 nm(2); we show a method to improve the spatial resolution potentially below the diffraction limit by using higher order cavity modes, and we present measurements of the birefringence and extinction contrast of gold nanorods. The demonstrated simultaneous enhancement of absorptive and dispersive signals promises intriguing potential for optical studies of nanomaterials, molecules and biological nanosystems.

Concepts: Diffraction, Optics, Laser, Nanotechnology, Nanomaterials, Wavelength, Optical microcavity, Angular resolution


Optical traps play an increasing role in the bionanosciences because of their ability to apply forces flexibly on tiny structures in fluid environments. Combined with particle-tracking techniques, they allow the sensing of miniscule forces exerted on these structures. Similar to atomic force microscopy (AFM), but much more sensitive, an optically trapped probe can be scanned across a structured surface to measure the height profile from the displacements of the probe. Here we demonstrate that, by the combination of a time-shared twin-optical trap and nanometre-precise three-dimensional interferometric particle tracking, both reliable height profiling and surface imaging are possible with a spatial resolution below the diffraction limit. The technique exploits the high-energy thermal position fluctuations of the trapped probe, and leads to a sampling of the surface 5,000 times softer than in AFM. The measured height and force profiles from test structures and Helicobacter cells illustrate the potential to uncover specific properties of hard and soft surfaces.

Concepts: Diffraction, Optics, Fundamental physics concepts, Measurement, Atom, Integral, Force, Angular resolution