Using spider-silk as a superlens to increase a microscope’s potential Read more: Using spider-silk as a superlens to increase a microscope’s potential
Extending the limit of classical microscope’s resolution has been the ‘El Dorado’ or ‘Holy Grail’ of microscopy for over a century. Physical laws of light make it impossible to view objects smaller than 200 nm – the smallest size of bacteria, using a normal microscope alone. However, superlenses which enable us to see beyond the current magnification have been the goal since the turn of the millennium. Hot on the heels of a paper (“Visible light superlens made from nanobeads”) revealing that a team at Bangor University’s School of Electronic Engineering has used a nanobead-derived superlens to break the perceived resolution barrier, the same team has achieved another world first. Now the team, led by Dr Zengbo Wang and in colloboration with Prof. Fritz Vollrath’s silk group at Oxford University’s Department of Zoology, has used a naturally occurring material – dragline silk of the golden web spider, as an additional superlens, applied to the surface of the material to be viewed, to provide an additional 2-3 times magnification. This is the first time that a naturally occurring biological material has been used as a superlens. In the paper in Nano Letters (“Spider Silk: Mother Nature’s Bio-Superlens”), the joint team reveals how they used a cylindrical piece of spider silk from the thumb sized Nephila spider as a lens.