The metamaterial hyperlens may appear like a motionless Slinky but it does not climb down the stairs. It can do much more than that. It can even be a game changer in the field of medicine.
The hyperlens can actually boost our capability to see tiny objects and may even be used someday for detecting some of the deadliest forms of cancer.
Described in a paper that was published in the journal Nature Communications, the hyperlens could even possibly pave way to advances in nanoelectronic manufacturing as well as improve the ability of scientists to look at single molecules, which could have significant implications in the fields of biology, chemistry and physics.
"There is a great need in healthcare, nanotechnology and other areas to improve our ability to see tiny objects that elude even the most powerful optical systems," said study author Natalia Litchinitser, from the University at Buffalo adding that the hyperlens that they are developing could possibly become a giant leap to solving this problem.
Conventional optical systems, which include the likes of cameras and microscopes, get limited by diffraction, a phenomenon that happens when light bends while passing through a slit or around an edge. Diffraction, in essence, limit the resolution of optical systems and scientists are attempting to find solutions to diffraction with metamaterials, which are designed to possess properties that have not yet been discovered in nature.
The design of the Slinky-like metamaterial hyperlens overcomes the diffraction limit and it can even pave way for hyperlens-based medical endoscopes. Although more studies are still needed, such tool could boost the ability of medical practitioners to detect lethal cancers such as ovarian cancer, which claim thousands of lives per year. Such technology could have important implications on the odds of patients to get treated for their disease.
High-resolution endoscopes that exist today could improve their resolution to 250 nanometers or more with the aid of the hyperlens. Such development is crucial because the sooner doctors discover cancers that are hard to detect, the more likelihood there is for the patient to get treated for the disease.
The hyperlens can also lead to improvements in data storage drives, optoelectronic devices, sensors and other gadgets. It also shows potentials in sequencing single molecules, an advancement that has widespread implications in many fields of research including biology, chemistry and physics.