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Nanobead-powered superlens reveals details a microscope can’t

BANGOR, Wales, Aug. 12 (UPI) — Researchers have observed previously invisible details using a solid 3D superlens made of nanobeads.

The superlens allowed researchers to see information etched into the surface of a Blu-ray disc, a feat scientists have been unable to achieve using an ordinary microscope.

Scientists scattered millions of nanobeads across the surface of a Blu-ray disc before peering at the newly revealed digital grooves through a microscope. The nanobeads break up the light, each one refracting tiny individual beams.

Together, the collection of spheres serves to illuminate the disc’s surface and multiply the microscope’s magnifying power by a factor of five.

“We’ve used high-index titanium dioxide, TiO2, nanoparticles as the building element of the lens,” Zengbo Wang, a researcher at Bangor University in northern Wales, said in a news release. “These nanoparticles are able to bend light to a higher degree than water.”

“Each sphere bends the light to a high magnitude and splits the light beam, creating millions of individual beams of light. It is these tiny light beams which enable us to view previously unseen detail,” Wang added.

Though the same technique can’t be replicated for every application, Wang and his colleagues believe they will soon find ways to use the superlens technology in biology and medicine.

The researchers recently described their breakthrough in the journal Science Advances.

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