Plasmonic antennas and zero-mode waveguides to enhance single molecule fluorescence detection and fluorescence correlation spectroscopy toward physiological concentrations

Wiley Interdiscip Rev Nanomed Nanobiotechnol. 2014 May-Jun;6(3):268-82. doi: 10.1002/wnan.1261. Epub 2014 Feb 24.


Single-molecule approaches to biology offer a powerful new vision to elucidate the mechanisms that underpin the functioning of living cells. However, conventional optical single molecule spectroscopy techniques such as Förster fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) or fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) are limited by diffraction to the nanomolar concentration range, far below the physiological micromolar concentration range where most biological reaction occur. To breach the diffraction limit, zero-mode waveguides (ZMW) and plasmonic antennas exploit the surface plasmon resonances to confine and enhance light down to the nanometer scale. The ability of plasmonics to achieve extreme light concentration unlocks an enormous potential to enhance fluorescence detection, FRET, and FCS. Single molecule spectroscopy techniques greatly benefit from ZMW and plasmonic antennas to enter a new dimension of molecular concentration reaching physiological conditions. The application of nano-optics to biological problems with FRET and FCS is an emerging and exciting field, and is promising to reveal new insights on biological functions and dynamics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Image Enhancement / methods*
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force / methods*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods*
  • Molecular Imaging / methods*
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence / methods*