New lense typeNew lense type
Ravlik writes about a new type of a lense that can capture objects with details impossible before.
A New Way of Looking at Things
By Alex Stone
May 27, 2004 | Astronomy & Physics
Scientists have invented a lens that defeats the diffraction limit, a seemingly immutable physical law that
restricts image quality. Conventional lenses can resolve only objects that are larger than the wavelength
of light, but the new design can clearly see previously inaccessible, sub-wavelength details.
The problem with traditional lenses, says University of Toronto electrical engineer George Eleftheriades,
is that they destroy evanescent waves-reflections from an illuminated object that contain minute details of
its appearance. As evanescent waves pass through a conventional lens, they dwindle to invisibility; in the
process, some of the most interesting parts of the image are lost. Four years ago, physicist John Pendry at
Imperial College in London worked out a method that would, in theory, recover the evanescent waves, but
nobody knew if it was practically feasible.
To find out, Eleftheriades and graduate student Anthony Grbic constructed a novel lens out of a thin
lattice of metallic strips interlaced with inductors and capacitors, devices that store, respectively,
magnetic and electric energy. The researchers combined these components in a way that captured evanescent
waves from microwaves, which are similar to light waves but larger and hence easier to manipulate. "In the
lenses we made, the evanescent waves were actually enhanced, so they contributed to better resolution,"
Eleftheriades says. "We got six times better resolution than with a conventional lens, and we think we can
do even better." This work could lead to sharper medical imaging, smaller antennas, and better surveillance
technology, he predicts.