We report theoretical predictions and experimental observations of the reduced detection volume with the use of surface-plasmon-coupled emission (SPCE). The effective fluorescence volume (detection volume) in SPCE experiments depends on two near-field factors: the depth of evanescent wave excitation and a distance-dependent coupling of excited fluorophores to the surface plasmons. With direct excitation of the sample (reverse Kretschmann excitation) the detection volume is restricted only by the distance-dependent coupling of the excitation to the surface plasmons. However, with the excitation through the glass prism at surface plasmon resonance angle (Kretschmann configuration), the detection volume is a product of evanescent wave penetration depth and distance-dependent coupling. In addition, the detection volume is further reduced by a metal quenching of excited fluorophores at a close proximity (below 10 nm). The height of the detected volume size is 40-70 nm, depending on the orientation of the excited dipoles. We show that, by using the Kretschmann configuration in a microscope with a high-numerical-aperture objective (1.45) together with confocal detection, the detection volume can be reduced to 1-2 attoL. The strong dependence of the coupling to the surface plasmons on the orientation of excited dipoles can be used to study the small conformational changes of macromolecules.
- Fluorescence microscope
- Minimized detection volume
- Surface-plasmon-coupled emission