The ability to see and manipulate objects with ever decreasing size in a microscope is paramount to the ongoing development of many areas of modern science and technology, from microelectronics to biology and life sciences. The project goal is to demonstrate a technique enabling to image low-contrast nanoscale biological objects in real time without the need for scanning, fluorescent labelling, or fixation. Such a technique can have as great an impact as the invention of the optical microscope itself.
The project goal is achieved by using artificially engineered metal-dielectric nanostructures (hyperbolic metamaterials) with a unique ability to recover information contained in light waves coming from the object’s subwavelength features. This is contrary to conventional optical systems where the loss of this information limits the resolution. The central idea of the project is engineering the metamaterial so that only the subwavelength information is transmitted, while any other (background) radiation is filtered out, leading to contrast enhancement similar to the dark-field microscopy. As a result, we would combine superior image resolution (a property of hyperbolic metamaterials) and high image contrast (the result of “dark-field” background filtering). This will be highly desirable for label-free biological imaging scenarios, where faint, weakly scattering objects are abundant. The project aims to verify the concept through direct experimental realization.