Parallel mapping of optical near-field interactions by molecular motor-driven quantum dots



In the vicinity of metallic nanostructures, absorption and emission rates of optical emitters can be modulated by several orders of magnitude1,2. Control of such near-field light–matter interaction is essential for applications in biosensing3, light harvesting4 and quantum communication5,6 and requires precise mapping of optical near-field interactions, for which single-emitter probes are promising candidates7,8,9,10,11. However, currently available techniques are limited in terms of throughput, resolution and/or non-invasiveness. Here, we present an approach for the parallel mapping of optical near-field interactions with a resolution of <5 nm using surface-bound motor proteins to transport microtubules carrying single emitters (quantum dots). The deterministic motion of the quantum dots allows for the interpolation of their tracked positions, resulting in an increased spatial resolution and a suppression of localization artefacts. We apply this method to map the near-field distribution of nanoslits engraved into gold layers and find an excellent agreement with finite-difference time-domain simulations. Our technique can be readily applied to a variety of surfaces for scalable, nanometre-resolved and artefact-free near-field mapping using conventional wide-field microscopes.

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We thank M. Braun, R. Heintzman, A. Mitra, C. Reuther and T. Korten for fruitful discussions as well as C. Bräuer and T. Korten for supplying the kinesin-1 enzyme and technical support. This work was financially supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) through the Center for Advancing Electronics Dresden (cfaed), the Heisenberg programme (DI 1226/4-1 to S.D.) and the European Social Funds (ESF) (contract 100111059, MindNano). H.G. and B.H. acknowledge financial support from the DFG via grant He5618/1-1 and a Reinhart Koselleck project.

Author information

Author notes

    • Hannah S. Heil

    Present address: Rudolf Virchow Center for Experimental Biomedicine, Universität Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany

    • Friedrich W. Schwarz

    Present address: Kurfürst-Moritz-Schule, Moritzburg, Germany

  1. These authors contributed equally: Heiko Groß, Hannah S. Heil.


  1. Nano-Optics and Biophotonics Group, Experimentelle Physik 5, Physikalisches Institut, Wilhelm-Conrad-Röntgen-Center for Complex Material Systems, Universität Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany

    • Heiko Groß
    •  & Bert Hecht
  2. B CUBE – Center for Molecular Bioengineering, Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany

    • Hannah S. Heil
    • , Jens Ehrig
    • , Friedrich W. Schwarz
    •  & Stefan Diez
  3. cfaed – Center for Advancing Electronics Dresden, Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany

    • Friedrich W. Schwarz
    •  & Stefan Diez
  4. Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden, Germany

    • Stefan Diez


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H.S.H., F.W.S., B.H. and S.D. conceived and designed the experiments. H.S.H. and F.W.S. performed the experiments. H.S.H., J.E. and F.W.S. analysed the data. H.G. performed the numerical simulations. All authors contributed to writing the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Bert Hecht or Stefan Diez.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Figs. 1–6; Supplementary Sections 1–2

  2. Supplementary Video 1

    QD-labelled microtubules gliding on a gold surface with nanoslits.

  3. Supplementary Video 2

    QD-labelled microtubules gliding on a bare glass substrate.

  4. Supplementary Video 3

    Close-up of QD-labelled microtubules gliding on a gold surface with nanoslits.