Direct probing of single-molecule chemiluminescent reaction dynamics under catalytic conditions in solution

Nat Commun. 2023 Dec 2;14(1):7993. doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-43640-1.


Chemical reaction kinetics can be evaluated by probing dynamic changes of chemical substrates or physical phenomena accompanied during the reaction process. Chemiluminescence, a light emitting exoenergetic process, involves random reaction positions and kinetics in solution that are typically characterized by ensemble measurements with nonnegligible average effects. Chemiluminescent reaction dynamics at the single-molecule level remains elusive. Here we report direct imaging of single-molecule chemiluminescent reactions in solution and probing of their reaction dynamics under catalytic conditions. Double-substrate Michaelis-Menten type of catalytic kinetics is found to govern the single-molecule reaction dynamics in solution, and a heterogeneity is found among different catalyst particles and different catalytic sites on a single particle. We further show that single-molecule chemiluminescence imaging can be used to evaluate the thermodynamics of the catalytic system, resolving activation energy at the single-particle level. Our work provides fundamental insights into chemiluminescent reactions and offers an efficient approach for evaluating catalysts.