Microscopic Journey

Adventure thru innerspace! And beyond!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

The Disneyland Tomorrowland ride let visitors travel “thru inner-space”. Riders were shrunk down to smaller than an atom, beyond the limit of microscope technology. Like in that sci-fi movie “Fantastic Voyage!” Cool, right?

Current technology still can’t see this hidden world directly, but it’s getting there! And lasers can photograph it. However, the microscope images they produce aren’t crisp and clean – they’re grainy with spotty patterns called speckle.

Hui Cao at Yale University wanted to free lasers from speckle tyranny. He trapped and stored green light in a liquid solution called rhodamine 640. This solution, once saturated, releases a flood of yellow laser light.

To modify the rhodamine, Cao added tiny, reflective, Styrofoam spheres which act like laser floodgates. Normally, laser light is perfectly wavelike, like the surface of the ocean. Now, it was random, rocky and jagged. Result? No more speckle!

Cao thinks his laser-fix could mean better microscopes and sharper, cleaner micro-imagery.

That’s pretty speckle-tacular! Who knows what we could find inner-space!