Probing Single Molecule Dynamics

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Science  15 Jul 1994:
Vol. 265, Issue 5170, pp. 361-364
DOI: 10.1126/science.265.5170.361


The room temperature dynamics of single sulforhodamine 101 molecules dispersed on a glass surface are investigated on two different time scales with near-field optics. On the 10-2- to 102-second time scale, intensity fluctuations in the emission from single molecules are examined with polarization measurements, providing insight into their spectroscopic properties. On the nanosecond time scale, the fluorescence lifetimes of single molecules are measured, and their excited-state energy transfer to the aluminum coating of the near-field probe is characterized. A movie of the time-resolved emission demonstrates the feasibility of fluorescence lifetime imaging with single molecule sensitivity, picosecond temporal resolution, and a spatial resolving power beyond the diffraction limit.