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July 1st, 2007
USING A POTASSIUM NIOBATE (KNbO3) nanowire as their key component, researchers have created an optical probe that potentially combines fluorescence microscopy and force microscopy (Nature 2007, 447, 1098). The probe—developed by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory—is attractive as a bioimaging tool and could also be used in advanced information technology, cryptography, and signal-processing circuits.
The probe makes use of infrared optical tweezers that perform two functions at the same time: They physically grab onto and manipulate the nanowire so that it can be gently pressed against an object to be imaged. The tweezers also make the nanowire emit light like a tiny fiber-optic filament so that it can excite fluorophores. The probe allows the researchers to image objects at the subwavelength level; that is, it resolves features that are smaller than the wavelength of visible light.
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