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Distance measurement by circular scanning of the excitation beam in the two‐photon microscope


We developed a method to measure relative distances with nanometer accuracy of fluorescent particles of different color in a two-photon scanning fluorescence microscope, with two-channel photon counting detection. The method can be used in the 10-500 nm range, for distances below the resolution limit of standard far field microscopy. The proposed technique is more efficient than the methods using raster scanning. To achieve maximum sensitivity in the radial direction, the excitation beam is moved periodically in a circular orbit with a radius of the size of the point spread function. The phase and the modulation of the periodic fluorescence signal, calculated by fast Fourier transform, gives the phase and the radial distance of the particle from the center of scanning. The coordinates of particles are recovered simultaneously in the two channels and the relative distance is calculated in real time. Particles can be tracked by moving the center of scanning to the recovered position, while measuring the distance from the second particle. Intensity data are saved and fitted later by a model accounting for light leakage between the channels. The total number of detected photons limited the accuracy of the position and distance measurement. Experiments demonstrating the advantages of the method were performed on fluorescent spheres and single dye molecules immobilized on quartz surface.

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