Special Reviews

Illuminating Single Molecules in Condensed Matter

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Science  12 Mar 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5408, pp. 1670-1676
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5408.1670

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Efficient collection and detection of fluorescence coupled with careful minimization of background from impurities and Raman scattering now enable routine optical microscopy and study of single molecules in complex condensed matter environments. This ultimate method for unraveling ensemble averages leads to the observation of new effects and to direct measurements of stochastic fluctuations. Experiments at cryogenic temperatures open new directions in molecular spectroscopy, quantum optics, and solid-state dynamics. Room-temperature investigations apply several techniques (polarization microscopy, single-molecule imaging, emission time dependence, energy transfer, lifetime studies, and the like) to a growing array of biophysical problems where new insight may be gained from direct observations of hidden static and dynamic inhomogeneity.

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