'Superlens' possible with spider silk: Bangor University

Making a biliogical superlens is thought to be a world first. Credit: Lou Avers/DPA/PA Images

Extending the limit of a 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 (0.0002mm) – the smallest size of bacteria, using a normal microscope alone.

But superlenses which can let us see beyond the current magnification have been the goal since the turn of the millennium.

Now a team from Bangor and Oxford Universities have applied spider-silk to the surface of the material to be viewed, to provide two to three 3 times more magnification.

They say it's the first time that a naturally occurring biological material has been used as a superlens.

We have proved that the resolution barrier of the microscope can be broken using a superlens, but production of manufactured superlenses involves some complex engineering processes which are not widely accessible to other researchers. This is why we have been interested in looking for naturally occurring superlenses provided by ‘Mother Nature’, which may exist around us, so that everyone can access superlenses.

Dr Zengbo Wang, Bangor University