iPAINT: brushing-up on super resolution microscopy

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Written by Dr Lee Barrett

In recent years, super-resolution microscopy has enabled researchers to explore biological interfaces at the nanoscale. Single-molecule localization methods, such as point accumulation for imaging in nanoscale topography (PAINT), are fundamental techniques for studying the morphology and architecture of living matter. While super-resolution microscopy techniques like PAINT have acquired the interest of researchers in biology, it remains elusive to applications in soft matter and materials science.

In issue 16 of Nanoscale, researchers from the Netherlands have endeavoured to overcome the limitations of PAINT, such as a pre-requisite for hydrophobic domains or specific ligand/receptor pairs, by introducing interface point accumulation for imaging in nanoscale topography (iPAINT). In short, this new technique enables nanometre resolution imaging of interfaces by non-covalent, continuous labelling during imaging. This was achieved by labelling silica nanoparticles with polyethylene glycol (PEG) end-functionalized with a photoactivatable rhodamine analogue (PEG552) that is able to continuously adsorb and desorb from the interface. This method of labelling is essential for interfaces such as emulsions, foams and crystals like ice.

By employing iPAINT as a generic imaging method, the authors are able to obtain super-solution images at different interfaces in 3D. This innovation allows users to develop PAINT in other fields, such as colloid and interface science, food science, soft matter physics and nanotechnology.

iPAINT: a general approach tailored to image the topology of interfaces with nanometer resolution
A. Aloi, N. Vilanova, L. Albertazzi and I. K. Voets
Nanoscale, 2016, DOI: 10.1039/C6NR00445H

Dr Lee Barrett is a guest web writer for the Nanoscale blog. Lee is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Centre for Molecular Nanometrology at the University of Strathclyde. His research is currently focused on the development of nanoparticle-based sensors and surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS). Follow him on twitter @L_Bargie

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