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Superlenses earned their superlative by being able to capture the "evanescent" light waves that blossom close to an illuminated surface and never travel far enough to be "seen" by a conventional lens. Superlenses hold enormous potential in a range of applications, depending upon the form of light they capture, but their use has been limited because most have been made from elaborate artificial constructs known as metamaterials. The unique optical properties of metamaterials, which include the ability to bend light backwards – a property known as negative refraction – arise from their structure rather than their chemical composition. However, metamaterials can be difficult to fabricate and tend to absorb a relatively high percentage of photons that would otherwise be available for imaging.

Now, researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have fabricated a superlens from perovskite oxides that are simpler and easier to fabricate than metamaterials, and are ideal for capturing light in the mid-infrared range, which opens the door to highly sensitive biomedical detection and imaging. It is also possible that the superlensing effect can be selectively turned on/off, which would open the door to highly dense data writing and storage.

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Category: Science