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Phys Chem Chem Phys. 2006 May 7;8(17):2077-82. Epub 2006 Mar 23.

Controlled bimolecular collisions allow sub-diffraction limited microscopy of lipid vesicles.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


The concentration and vesicle size-controlled collisions of single molecules with target biological assemblies allow sub-diffraction limited optical images to be obtained that are not subject to the usual photobleaching problems with single molecule experiments. For example, single molecules of the probe Nile Red in aqueous solution emit a burst of fluorescence when they collide with a 50 nm hydrophobic vesicle situated on the surface in the laser focus. The bimolecular kinetics of the bursts is defined by their on- and off-time distribution functions which depend on the concentration and diffusion of the probe and the vesicle size. The mean burst frequency changes much more sharply than does the fluorescence intensity when a vesicle is raster scanned through the laser focus. This sharpness allows the spatial resolution of two objects to be improved and separations less than the diffraction limited resolution of the conventional optical microscope to be measured. The principle of this method of trajectory time distribution optical microscopy (TTDOM) could be used in a far field optical microscopic system with a resolution of several nanometers.

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