Perspective abstract

Nature Biotechnology 21, 1347 - 1355 (2003)
Published online: 31 October 2003 | doi:10.1038/nbt895

Toward fluorescence nanoscopy

Stefan W Hell1

For more than a century, the resolution of focusing light microscopy has been limited by diffraction to 180 nm in the focal plane and to 500 nm along the optic axis. Recently, microscopes have been reported that provide three- to sevenfold improved axial resolution in live cells. Moreover, a family of concepts has emerged that overcomes the diffraction barrier altogether. Its first exponent, stimulated emission depletion microscopy, has so far displayed a resolution down to 28 nm. Relying on saturated optical transitions, these concepts are limited only by the attainable saturation level. As strong saturation should be feasible at low light intensities, nanoscale imaging with focused light may be closer than ever.

  1. Max-Planck-Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Department of NanoBiophotonics, Am Fassberg 11, 37077 Göttingen, Germany.

Correspondence to: Stefan W Hell1 e-mail:

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