Optical wide-field imaging of sub-diffraction limit nanostructures is of interest in a wide array of applications. In applications where the nanostructures to be visualized are well isolated, a high enough optical contrast is sufficient to detect these. Here we demonstrate a technique to visualize nanoscale features, such as grain boundaries in Chemical Vapor Deposited (CVD) single layer graphene, which are just a few atom length defects, using regular bright field optical microscopy. This remarkably low lateral length scale was imaged using of a special thin film structure consisting of a water-soluble thin film layer deposited on a metal substrate, which produces a strong color change as a function of the film thickness. Small local water transport differences in the graphene layer result in thickness variation of the underlying thin film due to its solubility in water and produces color contrast readily observable under a normal brightfield optical microscope with the naked eye. We demonstrate the use of this technique for direct optical visualization of grain boundaries in graphene as wide as 2-5 nm and sub-100 nm photoresist lines. By using super-resolution image processing algorithms, we may be able to detect structure even smaller in size than currently achieved. We believe that this technique can be extended to single molecule detection.
Swathi Suran, Krishna Bharadwaj, Srinivasan Raghavan, and Manoj M. Varma, "Seeing the unseen with localized optical contrast," Proc. SPIE 9721, Nanoscale Imaging, Sensing, and Actuation for Biomedical Applications XIII, 97210U (Presented at SPIE BiOS: February 18, 2016; Published: 22 April 2016); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2212028.
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Study of self-shadowing effect as a simple means to realize nanostructured thin films and layers with special attentions to birefringent obliquely deposited thin films and photo-luminescent porous silicon