It’s one thing to make nanoscale devices, but it’s another to study and improve them – they’re so small that they can’t reflect enough light to look good. However, a breakthrough could make this possible. UC Riverside researchers have built Technology that squeezes tungsten lamp light into a 6 nanometer point on the end of a silver nanowire. In this way, scientists can create color images at an “unprecedented” level instead of having to settle for molecular vibrations.
The developers modified an existing “super-focusing” tool (already used to measure vibrations) to detect signals across the entire visible spectrum. Light spreads in a flashlight-like conical path. When the tip of the nanowire moves over an object, the system records the influence of this object on the beam shape and color (also using a spectrometer). With two spectra per 6 nm pixel, the team can take color photos of carbon nanotubes that would otherwise appear gray.
This ability to compress light is remarkable in itself, but the inventors see it as an important role in nanotechnology. Semiconductor manufacturers could develop more uniform nanomaterials that find their way into chips and other densely packed devices. The squeezed light could also improve human understanding of nanoelectronics, quantum optics, and other scientific areas where this resolution was not available.
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