A hybrid optical microscope is being developed that could image and measure features smaller than the wavelength of visible light.
If successful, the technology could be used for commercial-scale processes and the construction of parts and products with nanoscale dimensions.
Conventional wisdom holds that the centuries-old technology of optical microscopy is left in the dust by nanotechnology, which works at the scale of atoms.
The wavelengths of visible light exceed nanoscale dimensions, so conventional light-based imaging methods are limited to about 200 nanometers—about twice the size of where nanotechnology is considered to begin.
A five-year research project at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), however, aims to produce a version of an optical microscope that can work with features smaller than 10 nanometers.