Studying a known thin-layer sample using the novel nanoscope. Laser pulses excite the electrons in the bright stripes, whereby the otherwise transparent sample at these locations becomes reflexive. Credit: TU Dresden
To gain even deeper insights into the smallest of worlds, the thresholds of microscopy must be expanded further. Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) and the TU Dresden, in cooperation with the Freie Universität Berlin, have succeeded in combining two established measurement techniques for the first time: near-field optical microscopy and ultra-fast spectroscopy. Computer-assisted technology developed especially for this purpose combines the advantages of both methods and suppresses unwanted noise. This makes highly precise filming of dynamic processes at the nanometer scale possible. The results were recently published in the research journal Scientific Reports.
Many important but complex processes in the natural and life sciences, for example, photosynthesis or high-temperature superconductivity, have yet to be understood. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that such processes take place on a scale of a millionth of a millimeter (nanometer) and therefore cannot be observed by conventional optical microscopic imaging. On the other hand, researchers must be able to precisely observe very rapid changes in individual stages to better understand the highly complex dynamics. The development of high-resolution temporal and spatial technologies has therefore been promoted for decades.