Ultrasound scans could soon be much more detailed, thanks to a novel material that can bend sound waves the “wrong” way. This property, known as negative refraction, means the material should bring sound waves to a focus far sharper than today’s medical scanners.

Negative refraction of light was predicted in the 1970s by the Russian physicist Victor Veselago, but it was not actually achieved until 2000.

Then in 2001, John Pendry, a theoretical physicist at Imperial College London, predicted that using negative refraction in lenses could generate images with a much higher resolution than is usually possible.

Instead of resolving objects down to only around half the size of the wavelength of light being used, he predicted that so-called superlenses could resolve objects just one-tenth of the wavelength.

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