Universiteit Leiden

nl en


Joan van der Waals colloquium

  • Niek van Hulst (ICFO)
3 november 2017
Borrel na afloop.
Niels Bohrweg 2
2333 CA Leiden
De Sitterzaal

"Looking into Single Molecules at the last Frontier”

Niek F. van Hulst

ICFO – the Institute of Photonic Sciences, Barcelona Institute of Science & Technology, Barcelona.

ICREA – Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats, Barcelona.

e-mail:    Niek.vanHulst@ICFO.eu          Web: www.ICFO.eu


Detecting single molecules one traces individual molecules both in space and in time, providing high-resolution images of dynamic processes beyond the ensemble. A host of important dynamic processes occurs on fs-ps timescale, such as electronic relaxation/dephasing, energy & charge transfer, vibrational relaxation, photo-dissociation-ionization, photo-isomerization. Yet capturing fast dynamics is fundamentally limited by the lifetime of the detected fluorescence. For the ensemble, fs-ps resolution is obtained by transient absorption and 2D electronic/vibrational spectroscopy [1].

We challenge ultrafast transient absorption of a single molecule and have set out to probe the non-linear ultrafast response of the single molecule using a broadband laser in an effective 3-pulse scheme with fluorescence detection. 2D electronic spectroscopy of single molecules is getting into reach [2].

Stimulated emission has been used as alternative detection method [3] and is widely applied to enhance spatial resolution in STED microscopy [4]. We have set out to directly detect the stimulated emission from individual quantum emitters at ambient conditions, to disentangle ultrafast charge dynamics in the excited state, on sub-picosecond timescale. [5].

Finally, local optical near-fields of nano-antennas and plasmonic nanoparticles are known to enhance both sensitivity and resolution in sensing and microscopy. Critical to the optimal coupling and enhancement is the positioning of the molecule  at the local hotspot. We apply both deterministic scanning and stochastic mapping of the nanoscale plasmon-molecule interaction, to optimize the coupling strength and ultrafast interaction. [6]


[1] David Jonas, Two‐dimensional femtosecond spectroscopy. Annu. Rev. Phys. Chem. 54, 425 (2003).

[2] Matz Liebel, Costanza Toninelli and Niek F. van Hulst, Nature Photonics, ASAP.

[3] W. Min, S. Lu, S. Chong, R. Roy, G.R. Holmton and X.S. Xie, Imaging chromophores with undetectable fluorescence by stimulated emission microscopy. Nature 461, 1105 (2009).

[4] Thomas Klar, Stefan Jakobs, Marcus Dyba, Alexander Egner and Stefan Hell, Fluorescence microsc. with diffraction resolution-barrier broken by stimulated emission, PNAS 97, 8206 (2000).

[5] Lukasz Piatkowski, Nicolò Accanto, Gaëtan Calbris, Sotirios Christodoulou, Iwan Moreels, Niek F. van Hulst, Submitted.

[6] Anshuman Singh, Pablo de Roque, Gaëtan Calbris, James Hugall, Niek F. van Hulst, N.F., under review.