Competitive Research Programme (CRP) 

Development of Super-Resolution and High-Sensitivity Optical Nanoscope

PI: Prof. Hong Minghui, NUS

Bringing greater clarity to optical microscopy

This research project seeks to overcome the limitations of optical microscopes available today via the introduction of super-resolution and high-sensitivity optical nanoscopes that can image a specimen at super-resolutions in ambient air.

The humble optical microscope is a valuable tool in fields as diverse as nanophysics, biotechnology, and pharmaceutical research. It is also used in industrial work and by doctors for medical diagnosis. The higher the optical resolution achieved, the finer the images obtained, even revealing interactions between molecules in nanoscale. Unfortunately, the resolution of optical microscopes – and hence, their effectiveness – is limited by the diffraction of visible light.

Currently, optical diffraction limit means that the smallest far-field resolving distance in a conventional optical system is at around 200 nm under white-light illumination. There are many research efforts focused on increasing the optical imaging resolution, such as by near-field scanning optical microscopy (NSOM) and stimulated emission depletion (STED) system. But these super-resolution methods have their own set of issues, like weak optical signals and high requirement of specific dyes to label molecule samples, which limit their extensive use.