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Beilstein J Nanotechnol. 2011;2:645-52. doi: 10.3762/bjnano.2.68. Epub 2011 Sep 29.

Distance dependence of near-field fluorescence enhancement and quenching of single quantum dots.

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Experimental Biophysics and Applied Nanosciences, Bielefeld University, Department of Physics, Universitätsstr. 25, 33615 Bielefeld, Germany.


In fluorescence microscopy and spectroscopy, energy transfer processes between single fluorophores and fluorophore quencher pairs play an important role in the investigation of molecular distances or orientations. At distances larger than about 3 nm these effects originate predominantly from dipolar coupling. As these experiments are commonly performed in homogenous media, effects at the interface boundaries can be neglected. Nevertheless, the combination of such assays with single-molecule manipulation techniques such as atomic force microscopy (AFM) requires a detailed understanding of the influence of interfaces on dipolar coupling effects. In the presented work we used a combined total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy (TIRFM)-AFM setup to elucidate this issue. We measured the fluorescence emission emanating from single quantum dots as a function of distance from the apex of a gold-coated cantilever tip. As well as fluorescence quenching at close proximity to the tip, we found a nonlinear and nonmonotonic distance dependence of the fluorescence emission. To confirm and interpret our findings we performed calculations on the basis of a simplified multiple multipole (MMP) approach, which successfully supports our experimental data. Moreover, we revealed and quantified the influence of interfering processes such as field enhancement confined at interface boundaries, mirror dipoles and (resonant) dipolar coupling.


AFM; fluorescence energy transfer; multiple multipole simulation; quantum dots

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