a) Microsphere superlens imaging of 360-nm-wide lines spaced 130 nm apart, and b) a gold-coated fishnet anodic alÂµminiÂµm oxide (AAO) sample imaged with microspheres (Image: University of Manchester)
Scientists from the University of Manchester have announced the development of the world's most powerful optical microscope. Called the "microsphere nanoscope," the device captures non-diffracted near-field virtual images that are amplified via silica glass microspheres, which are tiny optically-transparent spherical particles. Those images are then relayed and further amplified by a standard optical microscope. The nanoscope reportedly allows users to see objects as small as 50 nanometers under normal lighting – this is 20 times smaller than what conventional optical microscopes can manage, and is in fact said to be beyond the theoretical limits of optical microscopy.