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World’s smallest magnifying glass

last modified Nov 15, 2016 05:47 PM
Using the strange properties of tiny particles of gold, researchers have concentrated light down smaller than a single atom, letting them look at individual chemical bonds inside molecules, and opening up new ways to study light and matter.

For centuries, scientists believed that light, like all waves, couldn’t be focused down smaller than its wavelength, just under a millionth of a metre. Now researchers led by the University of Cambridge in collaboration with colleagues from Spain have created the world’s smallest magnifying glass which focuses light a billion times more tightly, down to the scale of single atoms. 

Professor Jeremy Baumberg of the NanoPhotonics Centre at Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory, led the research, with lead author Winton Scholar Felix Benz.  The results, reported in the journal Science, open up new ways to study the interaction of light and matter, including the possibility of making the molecules in the cavity undergo new sorts of chemical reactions, which could enable the development of entirely new types of sensors.

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