The entire Nanonics team wishes a heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Eric Betzig and his co-recipients Professor Stefan Hell and Professor William Moerner, upon receiving the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of super-resolution far-field fluorescence microscopy. Dr. Betzig was introduced to the quest of breaking the Abbe diffraction limit of resolution in optical imaging in his graduate studies in the 1980s at Cornell University under Professor Aaron Lewis, the founder of Nanonics who had started the field of near-field optics. Near-field optics at Cornell, definitively broke this limit of optical resolution through the doctoral work of Alec Harootunian and Eric Betzig in what was at the time a new area of imaging science.
When Eric Betzig joined the laboratory, Prof. Lewis had shown that light was transmitted with great efficiency through apertures as small as 30nm, beyond what was classically predicted by electromagnetic field calculations [A. Lewis, M. Isaacson, A. Harootunian and A. Murray, "Development of a 500ֵ Angstrom Spatial Resolution Light Microscope: Light is Efficiently Transmitted through lambda/16 Diameter Apertures," Ultramicroscopy 13, 227 (1984)]. These apertures, which even passed fluorescent light, had been produced and characterized in a verifiable way by the emerging techniques of electron beam lithography being developed at the time at Cornell by Professor Michael Isaacson.
During this period Alec Harootunian in the Lewis laboratory also developed the thermal pulling of glass for near-field optical probes that today is widely used and together with Eric Betzig demonstrated the breaking of the diffraction limit even for fluorescence imaging [A. Harootunian, E. Betzig, M. S. Isaacson and A. Lewis, "Superresolution Fluorescence Near-Field Scanning Optical Microscopy (NSOM)," Appl. Phys. Lett. 49, 674 (1986)] achieving a resolution on the order of 100nm.
Eric Betzig (left), Alec Hartoonian (center) and Prof. Aaron Lewis (right) in the Lewis lab at Cornell University, 1983.
Along with the above Eric Betzig perfomed the first theoretical simulation of what would be expected in the near-field of a near-field optical microscope [E. Betzig, A Harootunian, A. Lewis, and M. Isaacson, "Near-Field Diffraction from a Slit: Implications for Superresolution Microscopy," Applied Optics 25, 1890 (1986)] and was the first author in the paper in which the term Near-field Scanning Optical Microscopy (NSOM) was coined [E. Betzig, A. Lewis, A. Harootunian, M. Isaacson and E. Kratschmer,"Near-Field Scanning Optical Microscopy (NSOM): Development and Biophysical Applications," Biophys. J. 49, 269 (1986)]. He was also a part of the commercial results of this research and is listed as a co-author in one of the first near-field patents [Aaron Lewis, Michael Isaacson, Eric Betzig, and Alec Harootunian “Near-field scanning optical microscopy” (US 4917462A, 1990)].
Eric Betzig was an important member of the team in the Lewis laboratory’s seminal role in near-field optics which has broken the diffraction limit in X, Y and Z in all modes of light interaction with matter be it fluorescence, absorption, collection or illumination. Furthermore, near-field optics remains the only optical technique today that not only breaks the Abbe diffraction limit in 3 dimensions but also can provide in parallel the phase of the optical wave while providing full correlation of the optical properties of a material with its 3D structure. It also critically is the only technique capable of imaging near-field evanescent waves which are lost in any far-field image.
Nanonics’ continues in this quest of fully addressing the super-resolution and phase aspects of imaging in all regimes of the electromagnetic spectrum. This is certainly the case in the near-field but, as has been recently shown, by effectively designing atomic force/near-field optical systems for transparent optical integration Nanonics systems allow for pushing the envelope of far-field imaging science. An example of this is the confluence of far-field phase interference with the light being emitted by a near-field source placed with AFM precision at one position on a sample. This advance has now allowed for solving, in a parallel fashion, the 3D far-field phase of an object using a CCD camera with parallel fast data acquisition [Danielle R. Honigstein, Jacques Weinroth, Michael Werman, and Aaron Lewis, “Noniterative Exact Solution to the Phase Problem in Optical Imaging Implemented with Scanning Probe Microscopy,” ACSNano; doi.org/10.1021/nn203427z (2011)]. The technique also has super-resolution potential in the far-field.
We at Nanonics are very proud of our continuing work originally initiated by Lewis first at Cornell, then at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and of course also at Nanonics where state of the art Scanned Probe Microscopes have been developed for transparent NSOM including pioneering multiprobe AFM/NSOM technology. Through this commitment to super-resolution optical and structural imaging hundreds of laboratories throughout the world are able to obtain near-field and far-field structurally correlated information in areas such as silicon photonics, photonic band gap materials, plasmonics, organic and inorganic material science, and more recently in biological materials [V. Dalal, M. Bhattacharya, D. Narang, P.K. Sharma & S. Mukhopadhyay "Nanoscale Fluorescence Imaging of Single Amyloid Fibrils". J. Phys. Chem. Lett. 3, 1783 (2012)]
Our dedicated and experienced staff continues to push the envelope to bring to market the most accurate, sensitive, and highest resolution instruments. The importance of this effort is underscored by this year’s awarding of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Dr. Betzig, a physicist who made enormous contributions in this area and for whom the seeds for such investigations were sown by his graduate experience at Cornell under Prof. Lewis, the founder of Nanonics Imaging.