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Atomic nanoscope is an imaging system which is expected to provide resolution at sub-micrometre scale. The term is suggested in analogy with optical microscope which allows to see objects of several micrometres size. The idea of the imaging system with atoms instead of light is widely discussed in the literature ( [], [], [] ) since past century; and the performance of the atom optical systems gradually improves from year to year.
The atom optics using neutral atoms instead of light could provide the good resolution (as the electron microscope) and be completely non-destructive, because the short wavelength on the order of a nanometer can be realized at low energy of the probing particle. ``It follows that a helium microscope with nanometer resolution is possible. A helium atom microscope will be unique non-destructive tool for reflection of transmission microscopy. -- Holst et al. An atom-focusing mirror. Nature, v.390, p.244 (1997). []
The main problem in optics of atomic beams for the imaging system is focusing element. There is no material transparent for the beam of low-energy atoms. The Fresnel zone plate [] or evanescent field lens [] or the atomic mirror can be used for the atomic nanoscope.
Recently, the performance of the solid-state atomic mirrors was greatly enhanced with so-called ridged mirrors (or the Fresnel diffraction mirrors ( [] ). At the apporpriate ellipsoidal profile, such a mirror could be used for focusing of an atomic beam into a spot of some tens nanometers ([]); the scattering of atoms from this spot brings the image of the object, like in the scanning confocal microscope or the acanning electron microscope or the scanning probe microscopy.
The scheme shown at the picture, is the only one of proposals for the atomic nano-resolution systems; it may be realized also with the holographic, Fresnel diffraction, and the evanescent wave systems. Some of such systems may become competitive with established methods of visualization and measurung of nano-objects (see the overwiew at nanowiki).
Nanoscopes using simply reflected light have been developed by Richardson (RTM) and Olbrich (Erganom). These achieve resolutions under 100nm by novel pathlength innovations. Their use has confirmed the observations of Rife in 1930.
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