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J Phys Chem B. 2007 Jun 28;111(25):6987-91. Epub 2007 May 26.

Fluorescence of single molecules in polymer films: sensitivity of blinking to local environment.


The single-molecule fluorescence blinking behavior of the organic dye Atto647N in various polymer matrixes such as Zeonex, PVK, and PVA as well as aqueous media was investigated. Fluorescence blinking with off-times in the millisecond to second time range is assigned to dye radical ions formed by photoinduced electron transfer reactions from or to the environment. In Zeonex and PVK, the measured off-time distributions show power law dependence, whereas, in PVA, no such dependence is observed. Rather, in this polymer, off-time distributions can be best fitted to monoexponential or stretched exponential functions. Furthermore, treatment of PVA samples to mild heating and low pressure greatly reduces the frequency of blinking events. We tentatively ascribe this to the removal of water pockets within the polymer film itself. Measurements of the dye immobilized in water in the presence of methylviologen, a strongly oxidizing agent, reveal simple exponential on- and off-time distributions. Thus, our data suggest that the blinking behavior of single organic molecules is sensitive to their immediate environment and, moreover, that fluorescence blinking on- and off-time distributions do not inherently and uniquely obey a power law.

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