A Nature paper co-authored by Steven Chu, Nobel laureate and Energy Secretary of the United States, describes a big breakthrough in the science of the very small: a method of optical microscopy that can image at resolutions as small as half a nanometer, a full order of magnitude smaller than the previous finest optical resolution.
Conventional optics are generally restrained by a law of physics known as the diffraction limit, which dictates that optical systems can only resolve images down to abut half the wavelength of the light used to produce the image, or down to about 200 nanometers for most standard optics. That’s pretty small, but not small enough to, say, measure the gaps between proteins or look at a DNA molecule up close. In order to perform such tasks, researchers have had to rely on non-optical options like electron microscopy.
Full story: Steven Chu Breaks Record for Highest-Resolution Optical Imaging, Cracking Nanometer Limit – Popular Science