Near-to-far field image magnification

Near field lens

There was a time when magnifying glasses were good for nothing but fryin’ ants and helping the over-60s with newsprint. Now everyone’s a-peekin’ and a-peerin’ at things that are even smaller than the wavelength of visible light.

The conventional thinkin is that you can’t see nothing smaller than about a quarter of the wavelength of light; light’s just gonna go round anything as small as that, right?

Not quite. Turns out that in the region within a wavelength of a light emitter, the so-called near field, light interacts with things in all kindsa interesting ways. And if ya could only see the near field, you might get a handle on what’s going on.

There are various attempts to do this, such as near-field microscopy, which all involve circumventing the near field in some way such as sticking a probe into this forbidden region.

Now Vlad Shalaev at Purdue University in Indiana has designed the gadget we’ve all been a-waitin’ and a-hopin’ for: a lens that can magnify a near-field image into a far field one. Shalaev’s lens is made outta metamaterial that channels electric and magnetic fields away from a point source and redistributes them over a broader area, in other words it magnifies them.

There’s no hope for them ants now.

Ref: Engineering Space for Light via Transformation Optics

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