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Volume 596 Issue 7871, 12 August 2021

Seen in solution

A number of optical techniques allow researchers to view individual molecules in chemical reactions, but effective imaging of single-molecule reactions in solution remains a challenge. In this week’s issue, Jiandong Feng and his colleagues report direct imaging of single-molecule electrochemical reactions in solution and show that the technique can be used for super-resolution microscopy. The researchers make use of a luminescent molecule that emits a photon when it is excited by chemical reactions. By ensuring that the molecule’s reaction position is spatiotemporally isolated in solution, it is possible to pinpoint the electrochemiluminescence that occurs when a single luminescent molecule becomes excited. Over time, this can build up a picture of the electrode, which the team uses to image a single cell. The researchers show their technique can be used to image cell adhesions at nanometre resolution without needing an external light source.

Cover image: Jiandong Feng/Yaying Xu

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