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A Microscope With an Eye for Detail

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Science  16 Jul 1999:
Vol. 285, Issue 5426, pp. 311-312
DOI: 10.1126/science.285.5426.311

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In the 15 July issue of Optics Letters, researchers describe a principle they say can dramatically improve the resolution of fluorescence microscopes, which have traditionally been constrained by the so-called diffraction limit. Light microscopes have traditionally been constrained by diffraction, which causes light waves passing through any aperture, such as a lens, to spread out slightly, making it impossible to focus the light to an arbitrarily small point. The team overcame this limit using a clever combination of two laser beams, in which one beam illuminated and imaged the sample while the second beam sculpted the first to reduce the effects of diffraction.