Dynamic dark state depletion a path to high sensitivity imaging
Richards, Christopher I.
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Photophysical characterization of several species of fluorescent silver nanoclusters, encapsulated in oligonucleotide scaffolds, was achieved at the bulk and single molecule level. These studies reveal the presence of a short-lived microsecond blinking component which leads to higher emission rates than exhibited by common organic dyes. This dark state was found to be photo-accessible with a very efficient depopulation transition leading to repopulation of the emissive state. Secondary excitation on resonance with this transition significantly shortens the residence time in the dark state giving rise to as much as 5-fold fluorescence enhancement. Manipulation of the secondary laser can be used to impose a regularly modulated waveform onto the fluorescent signal. Signal processing techniques can be employed to extract the modulated signal from large backgrounds, leading to drastically improved sensitivity. This new imaging concept can be extended, beyond Ag nanoclusters, to common organic fluorophores that demonstrate large dark state quantum yields. These fluorophores simultaneously illustrate the utility of this technique and help to define a general set of parameters for engineering ideal dyes for modulated signal extraction. Ideally suited for fluorescence enhancement, FRET pairs can be used to engineer a wide range of modulatable systems, based on detecting donor emission in the presence of a laser directly exciting the acceptor. The utility of Ag nanoclusters, organic dyes, and FRET systems for improved sensitivity are investigated in this work.