(C) Federico Capasso 2017 immersion meta-lens integrated in scanning confocal  microscopeHarvard SEAS: Immersion Meta-Lens for Imaging Biomaterials

May 2017. Federico Capasso, the Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics, Vinton Hayes Senior Research Fellow in Electrical Engineering and their team from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed the first flat lens for immersion microscopy. This lens, which can be designed for any liquid, may provide a cost-effective and easy-to-manufacture alternative to the expensive, centuries-old technique of hand polishing lenses for immersion objectives.
Immersion microscopes, like all microscopes, are comprised of a series of cascading lenses. The first, known as the front lens, is the smallest and most important component. Only a few millimeters in size, these semicircular lenses look like perfectly preserved rain drops. Because of their distinctive shape, most front lenses of high-end microscopes produced today are hand polished. This process, not surprisingly, is expensive and time-consuming and produces lenses that only work within a few specific refractive indices of immersion liquids. So, if one specimen is under blood and another underwater, you would need to hand-craft two different lenses.

To simplify and speed-up this process, SEAS researchers used nanotechnology to design a front planar len(C) Federico Capasso 2017 TO2 Array Nanofinss that can be easily tailored and manufactured for different liquids with different refractive indices. The lens is made up of an array of titanium dioxide nanofins and fabricated using a single-step lithographic process. Using this process, the team designed metalenses that can not only be tailored for any immersion liquid but also for multiple layers of different refractive indices. By integrating an immersion meta-lens into a commercial scanning confocal microscope, the Harvard researchers achieved an imaging spatial resolution of approximately 200 nm. This is especially important for imaging biological material, such as skin.


Chen WT, Zhu AY, Khorasaninejad M, Shi Z, Sanjeev V, Capasso F (2017): Immersion Meta-Lenses at Visible Wavelengths for Nanoscale Imaging. Nano Letters, April 7: 3188–3194.

Source: Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) 

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