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Phys Rev Lett. 2002 Apr 22;88(16):163901. Epub 2002 Apr 4.

Focal spots of size lambda/23 open up far-field fluorescence microscopy at 33 nm axial resolution.

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High Resolution Optical Microscopy Group, Max-Planck-Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, 37070 Göttingen, Germany.


We report spots of excited molecules of 33 nm width created with focused light of lambda = 760 nm wavelength and conventional optics along the optic axis. This is accomplished by exciting the molecules with a femtosecond pulse and subsequent depletion of their excited state with red-shifted, picosecond-pulsed, counterpropagating, coherent light fields. The lambda/23 ratio constitutes what is to our knowledge the sharpest spatial definition attained with freely propagating electromagnetic radiation. The sub-diffraction spots enable for the first time far-field fluorescence microscopy with resolution at the tens of nanometer scale, as demonstrated in images of membranes of bacillus megaterium.

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