- towards subdiffraction limited imaging Alexandru Bratu, James Rice and Brian Vohnsen Bratu,
School of Physics, University College Dublin, Dublin 4, Ireland
Poster A4

Significant progress has been made in the development of sub-diffraction fluorescence microscopy methods that enable images recorded in the far field to possess resolution down to the nanometer scale. Unfortunately they typically require point-by-point scanning or the accumulation of large data sets, which prevents them from reaching real-time imaging applications. The application of new metamaterial lens technology holds promise for real-time imaging beyond the diffraction limit of significant value for fluorescence microscopy. Here we outline theoretical work towards a superlens design that utilize Surface Plasmon Polaritons (SPPs). Ideally a specific arrangement of scattering structures can focus an incoming SPP wave in an essential first step towards the realization of a 2-D subdiffraction-limited lens. We study the SPP scattering and propagation using SPP in-plane scattering based on a Green’s function propagator formalism. Eventually, our aim is to convert this theoretical proposal into a workable experimental lens for fluorescent microscopy.

Subdiffraction-limited imaging relies on evanescent waves by localized detection and scanning, by optically-driven localization or by the use of negative refraction effects with potential for a perfect lens [1].
(a) (b) (c)
n1=1 n2=-1 n1=1

Circular shells
SPP scattering in a semi-circular (=pi) arrangement of particles:
3 semi-circles (4,7,10 particles) 5 semi-circles (4,7,10,13,16 particles) |Emax|=2.39 |Emax|



Sequencial localization of (but not resolving) fluorophores.
Scanning near-field optical microscopy (SNOM)
Schematic of subdiffraction limited (a) scanning microscopy (e.g., near-field SNOM or depletion STED), (b) localization microscopy (STORM and PALM), (c) perfect lens design with evanescent wave recovery. | Emax| at focus |
3.0 2.5


Incident SPP

Incident SPP


2.0 1.5 1.0 0.5 0.0 0 2 4 6 8
0.0 0.5 1.5

For the realization of a (quasi) perfect lens SPPs are highly suited due to the negative permittivity of the supporting metal. A layered structure can recover evanscent waves [2] or negative refraction of a SPP wave [3] can regenerate evanescent components carrying ultrahigh resolution to the far field. Phase conjugation of evanescent waves such as with near-field holography can also increase the light confinement beyond the traditional limit of diffraction [4].





5 semi-circles

Number of semi-circles


2D focusing of an SPP
The group velocity of an SPP pulse on a gold film through PMMA is inverted with respect to the phase velocity and thus evanescent components may be restored. This has been used to transfer subdiffractionlimited resolution to the far field [3]. A requirement for this to happen is that the following condition is satisfied: n1d1= - n2d2 for the metallic film of effective index n1 and width d1 and PMMA of effective index n2 and width d2.

Elliptical shells
SPP scattering in a semi-elliptical (>pi) arrangement of particles:
1 parabolic shell (of 10 particles) |Emax|=1.44 3 parabolic shells (of 10 particles) |Emax| |Emax|=2.12

n1 n2 n1 n2 n1 d1 d2 d1 d2


Incident SPP


As a first step, we consider the design of lenses for 2D focusing of SPPs. The model employs an arrangement of dipolar elastic scattering elements on a metallic film supporting SPPs. The arrangement resembles a planar mirror focusing the field in a high numerical aperture arrangement.
Elastic SPP scattering model used for the field E at point r:
N   iα E (r ) = 1 + ∑ H 0 βSPP r − rj  exp ( iβSPP z )  j =1 4 




Incident SPP

Incident SPP


Predicted focal spot for a parabolic arrangement is improved when compared to a semi-circular design.

[1] J.B. Pendry, Negative refraction makes a perfect lens, Phys. Rev. Lett. 85 (2000) 3966 [2] Z. Liu et al, Far-field optical hyperlens magnifying sub-diffraction-limited objects, Science 315 (2007) 1686 [3] I.I. Smolyaninov et al, Magnifying superlens in the visible range, Science 315 (2007) 1699 [4] B. Vohnsen & S.I. Bozhevolnyi, Holographic approach to phase conjugation of optical near fields, J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 14 (1997) 1491



SPP wavenumber: βSPP

Particle polarizability: α

Hankel function: H0

Contact: brian.vohnsen@ucd.ie

Stokes 07/SK/B1239a PI award 08/IN.1/B2053 RFP award 09/RFP/PHY2398


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