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The high-throughput fabrication technique opens the door for the widespread adoption of this and other nano-optical structures, which squeeze and manipulate light in ways that are unachievable by conventional optics. Nano-optics have the potential to be used for imaging, sensing, and spectroscopy, and could help scientists improve solar cells, design better drugs, and make faster semiconductors. A big obstacle to the technology's commercial use, however, is its time-consuming production process.
The new fabrication method, called fiber nanoimprinting, could unplug this bottleneck. It was developed by scientists at the Molecular Foundry, located at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), in partnership with scientists from Hayward, California-based aBeam Technologies. Their research is reported online May 10 in the journal Scientific Reports.
Work - Builds - Campanile - Probe - Molecular
Their work builds on the Campanile probe, which was developed by Molecular Foundry scientists four years ago. Its tapered, four-sided shape resembles the top of the Campanile clock tower on UC Berkeley's campus. The probe is mounted at the end of an optical fiber, and focuses an intense beam of light onto a much smaller spot than is possible with current optics. This enables spectroscopic imaging at a resolution 100 times greater than conventional spectroscopy, which only maps the average chemical composition of a material.
In contrast, the Campanile probe can image the molecule-by-molecule makeup of nanoparticles and other materials. Scientists can use it to examine a nanowire for minute defects, for example, leading to new ways to improve nanowires for use in more efficient solar cells.
Campanile - Probes - Part - Science - Part
But fabricating Campanile probes has been part science and part art. The same applies to other nano-optical devices, such as microscopic lenses and beam splitters, which split one light beam into several. These devices require milling a 3-D shape with sub-100-nanometer scale features on the tip of a wispy fiber, which is much trickier...
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