Physicists dispel Rayleigh's curse

A team of physicists dispels Rayleigh's curse
Optical resolution is the ability of an imaging system to distinguish between closely spaced objects. In the picture, we show two points separated by the Rayleigh's limit, as observed in the experiment. Credit: Martin Paúr - Palacký University.

The resolution of an optical system (like a telescope or a camera) is limited by the so-called Rayleigh criterion. An international team, led by Complutense University of Madrid, has broken this limit, showing that it is not a fundamental curse. This opens the door to considerable improvement in resolution and could force the revision of optics textbooks. This research is the culmination of a thrilling race between four groups of scientists around the world.

An ideal optical system would resolve a point perfectly as a point. However, due to the wave nature of light, diffraction occurs, caused by the limiting edges of the system's apertures. The result is that the image of a point is a blur. This limits the resolution of any imaging system, including microscopes, telescopes, and cameras. The quantitative formulation of this phenomenon is the time-honored Rayleigh's limit.

Rayleigh's curse limits the minimum distance that can be distinguished with visible light: on the order of 0.1 micrometer (a bacterium, for example, has a size of 2 micrometers), "which is a great limitation to our ability to see finer details," says Luis Sánchez Soto, Professor at the Faculty of Physics at Complutense University of Madrid (UCM).

In cooperation with scientists from Palacký University in Olomouc (Czech Republic), the physicist has managed to break this limit, reaching resolutions up to 17 times lower than those purported by Lord Rayleigh.

"Textbook optics should be reconsidered and Rayleigh's limit placed in a broader context," says Sánchez Soto, who is also a researcher at the Max-Planck Institute for the Science of Light in Erlangen (Germany).

The research, published in Optica, is the culmination of a thrilling race between four teams of scientists around the world. Everyone wanted to prove the violation of this limit, but the group led by the Spanish was the first to achieve it.

The experiment shows that Rayleigh's curse is not inherent, but a consequence of not having chosen a good detection strategy. "So far, all our telescopes or microscopes directly observed intensity. Here, we propose a scheme that optimizes the information obtainable and can exceed the Rayleigh limit," says the physicist.

Explore further

Quantum mechanics technique allows for pushing past 'Rayleigh's curse'

More information: Martin Paúr et al, Achieving the ultimate optical resolution, Optica (2016). DOI: 10.1364/OPTICA.3.001144
Journal information: Optica

Provided by Universidad Complutense de Madrid
Citation: Physicists dispel Rayleigh's curse (2016, October 14) retrieved 23 August 2019 from
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Oct 15, 2016
Sure; however, with fine resolution, polarization and the directional vector of the light, one may isolate the sources. We need to redefine the Poynting vector, i.e. it has the velocity vector of the emitter added to the normal of the sphere about the center at each point of observation, thus a multi-point observation may distinguish multiple centers. Not sure this calculation has been done. A fly might know!

Oct 15, 2016
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Oct 15, 2016
The Rayleigh limit is still valid, as it applies for single beam of light, whereas the above study did use two of them at the same moment. The similar principles can be used for restoration of information from blurry images behind scattering wall of fog, which is interesting for military purposes. The compound eyes of insect composed of many smaller detectors utilize these higher-dimensional principles long time, which allows the insect to "see" it behind corners, for example. In similar way the uncertainty principle limits of quantum mechanics can be bypassed: with using of two or more consecutive observations.

Not sure a fly knows QM. The difference equation could be defined as the location of common peaks, adjusted for location with computation. So yes maybe with one method it might be raliegh limited. But ignore ref to QM, I calibrate to my instrumentation, not GR, or QM, what is.

Oct 16, 2016
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Oct 16, 2016
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Oct 16, 2016
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Oct 16, 2016
" break this limit, reaching resolutions up to 17 times lower than those purported by Lord Rayleigh."

Pretty sure you mean "higher." Higher resolution, not lower.

Oct 17, 2016
IIRC, Royal Raymond Rife used polarized single frequencies, or polarized very low bandwidth light (prismatic separation). This allowed him to magnify live virus, optically.

This, done in the 1930's.

His work was destroyed and he is still dismissed. We can even name the culprits, the record is so documented and complete. Destroyed because his other work was just as profound, which is the killing of viruses and the like by targeted RF frequencies which also now being considered as a major breakthrough.

Again, done in the 1930's. Extensive documentation exists.

Rife got there first. Twice. Nearly a century ago.

Your question, when you research and find the validity of what I say, is: what is still suppressed and is anything new being suppressed today? What is currently far ahead of what you see and is being either controlled or torn down?

If you don't keep your ear to the ground and follow the crazy seeming rumors and stories, you'll never know.

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