A molecular ruler based on plasmon coupling of single gold and silver nanoparticles

Nat Biotechnol. 2005 Jun;23(6):741-5. doi: 10.1038/nbt1100. Epub 2005 May 22.


Forster Resonance Energy Transfer has served as a molecular ruler that reports conformational changes and intramolecular distances of single biomolecules. However, such rulers suffer from low and fluctuating signal intensities, limited observation time due to photobleaching, and an upper distance limit of approximately 10 nm. Noble metal nanoparticles have plasmon resonances in the visible range and do not blink or bleach. They have been employed as alternative probes to overcome the limitations of organic fluorophores, and the coupling of plasmons in nearby particles has been exploited to detect particle aggregation by a distinct color change in bulk experiments. Here we demonstrate that plasmon coupling can be used to monitor distances between single pairs of gold and silver nanoparticles. We followed the directed assembly of gold and silver nanoparticle dimers in real time and studied the kinetics of single DNA hybridization events. These "plasmon rulers" allowed us to continuously monitor separations of up to 70 nm for >3,000 s.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • DNA / chemistry
  • Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer
  • Gold
  • Nanostructures / chemistry*
  • Nucleic Acid Hybridization
  • Silver
  • Surface Plasmon Resonance / methods*


  • Silver
  • Gold
  • DNA