Haifa’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology has registered a patent for a new technique that improves tenfold the performance of any type of sophisticated microscope and imaging system without making hardware changes.
The discovery, which has just been published in the Nature Materials journal, has aroused great interest in the scientific world and industry, being described as a “breakthrough with the potential to change” these fields.
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Their innovative method substantially improves the resolution – the ability to distinguish between details – of images seen through microscopes.
“When you loock through an optical microsope at an object with features [optical information] smaller than one-half the wavelength of light, you necessarily see a blurred image,” explained Prof. Moti Segev of the Technion’s physics department. “The reason for this is that the information about the structure of very small features does not propagate through space and thus does not reach the eye or the microscope camera.”
Methods exist to achieve a resolution under one-half of the wavelength of light, he said, but they all require point-by-point scanning of the object, meaning that these approaches may be used only for a static object, which does not change during the scan.
Bypassing the noise
Scientists have tried for many years to find algorithms to reconstruct the sub-wavelength information lost between the object and the microscope camera. But until now, all such attempts were largely unsuccessful. The main reason is that “noise” – random scattering of light, which is inevitable in optical systems – has thus far prevented algorithmic reconstruction of features smaller than one-half the wavelength of light from measurements of the blurred image.
Now the Technion team has presented a breakthrough algorithmic method for improving the resolution of microscopes to considerably under one-half the wavelength of light.