Subsurface Super-resolution Imaging of Unstained Polymer Nanostructures

Ben E. Urban, Biqin Dong, The Quyen Nguyen, Vadim Backman, Cheng Sun, Hao F. Zhang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Optical imaging has offered unique advantages in material researches, such as spectroscopy and lifetime measurements of deeply embedded materials, which cannot be matched using electron or scanning-probe microscopy. Unfortunately, conventional optical imaging cannot provide the spatial resolutions necessary for many nanoscopic studies. Despite recent rapid progress, super-resolution optical imaging has yet to be widely applied to non-biological materials. Herein we describe a method for nanoscopic optical imaging of buried polymer nanostructures without the need for extrinsic staining. We observed intrinsic stochastic fluorescence emission or blinking from unstained polymers and performed spatialoral spectral analysis to investigate its origin. We further applied photon localization super-resolution imaging reconstruction to the detected stochastic blinking, and achieved a spatial resolution of at least 100 nm, which corresponds to a six-fold increase over the optical diffraction limit. This work demonstrates the potential for studying the static heterogeneities of intrinsic polymer molecular-specific properties at sub-diffraction-limited optical resolutions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number28156
JournalScientific reports
StatePublished - Jun 29 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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