Super-resolution imaging: when biophysics meets nanophotonics


Koenderink AF, Tsukanov R, Enderlein J, Izeddin I, Krachmalnicoff V




Nanophotonics, vol. 11, no. 2, 2022, pp. 169-202.


Probing light–matter interaction at the nanometer scale is one of the most fascinating topics of modern optics. Its importance is underlined by the large span of fields in which such accurate knowledge of light–matter interaction is needed, namely nanophotonics, quantum electrodynamics, atomic physics, biosensing, quantum computing and many more. Increasing innovations in the field of microscopy in the last decade have pushed the ability of observing such phenomena across multiple length scales, from micrometers to nanometers. In bioimaging, the advent of super-resolution single-molecule localization microscopy (SMLM) has opened a completely new perspective for the study and understanding of molecular mechanisms, with unprecedented resolution, which take place inside the cell. Since then, the field of SMLM has been continuously improving, shifting from an initial drive for pushing technological limitations to the acquisition of new knowledge. Interestingly, such developments have become also of great interest for the study of light–matter interaction in nanostructured materials, either dielectric, metallic, or hybrid metallic-dielectric. The purpose of this review is to summarize the recent advances in the field of nanophotonics that have leveraged SMLM, and conversely to show how some concepts commonly used in nanophotonics can benefit the development of new microscopy techniques for biophysics. To this aim, we will first introduce the basic concepts of SMLM and the observables that can be measured. Then, we will link them with their corresponding physical quantities of interest in biophysics and nanophotonics and we will describe state-of-the-art experiments that apply SMLM to nanophotonics. The problem of localization artifacts due to the interaction of the fluorescent emitter with a resonant medium and possible solutions will be also discussed. Then, we will show how the interaction of fluorescent emitters with plasmonic structures can be successfully employed in biology for cell profiling and membrane organization studies. We present an outlook on emerging research directions enabled by the synergy of localization microscopy and nanophotonics.