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Gas jets make beautiful lens for light we can’t normally focus

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Enlarge (credit: Shal Farley)

I try not to write about optics too often because, well, I love optics, but no one else does. Unfortunately for you, I can’t resist the subject.

If you turn over your cell phone, you will find the lens on your camera. This is what lets the camera create a nice image. But for light in the wavelength range of 1-100nm (called the extreme ultraviolet), lenses don’t work. Or, rather, that was the accepted wisdom until now. But that wisdom will change, as researchers have shown how to make a lens for extreme ultraviolet radiation.

Lenses don’t work? You need your eyes checked

Lenses are basically a curved surface of a material in which light moves at a different speed. When light hits the material of a glass lens, for example, it slows down (by about 30 percent)—this is the effect of the refractive index of the material. Since the lens is curved, the light at the edge of the lens gets to travel that little bit further before it slows down, putting it ahead of light that is near the center of the lens.

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