Confocal laser scanning microscope

In a conventional (i.e., wide-field) fluorescence microscope, the entire specimen is flooded evenly in light from a light source. All parts of the sample can be excited at the same time and the resulting fluorescence is detected by the microscope's photodetector or camera including a large unfocused background part. The principle of confocal imaging was patented in 1957 by Marvin Minsky and aims to overcome some limitations of traditional wide-field fluorescence microscopes. A confocal microscope uses point illumination (see Point Spread Function) and a pinhole in an optically conjugate plane in front of the detector to eliminate out-of-focus signal – the name confocal stems from this configuration.

Two-photon excitation microscopy

Two-photon excitation microscopy (TPEF or 2PEF) is a fluorescence imaging technique that is particularly well-suited to image scattering living tissue of up to about one millimeter in thickness. Unlike traditional fluorescence microscopy, where the excitation wavelength is shorter than the emission wavelength, two-photon excitation requires simultaneous excitation by two photons with longer wavelength than the emitted light. The laser is focused onto a specific location in the tissue and scanned across the sample to sequentially produce the image. Due to the non-linearity of two-photon excitation, mainly fluorophores in the micrometer-sized focus of the laser beam are excited, which results in the spatial resolution of the image. This contrasts with confocal microscopy, where the spatial resolution is produced by the interaction of excitation focus and the confined detection with a pinhole. Due to the multiphoton absorption, the background signal is strongly suppressed, leading to an increased penetration depth for this technique. Two-photon excitation can be a superior alternative to confocal microscopy due to its deeper tissue penetration, efficient light detection, and reduced photobleaching. 

Super resolution fluorescent microscopy

Super-resolution microscopy is a series of techniques in optical microscopy that allow such images to have resolutions higher than those imposed by the diffraction limit, which is due to the diffraction of light. There are two major groups of methods for super-resolution microscopy in the far-field that can improve the resolution by a much larger factor: Deterministic super-resolution: the most commonly used emitters in biological microscopy, fluorophores, show a nonlinear response to excitation, which can be exploited to enhance resolution. Such methods include STED, GSD, RESOLFT and SSIM. Stochastic super-resolution: the chemical complexity of many molecular light sources gives them a complex temporal behavior, which can be used to make several nearby fluorophores emit light at separate times and thereby become resolvable in time. These methods include Super-resolution optical fluctuation imaging (SOFI) and all single-molecule localization methods (SMLM), such as SPDM, SPDMphymod, PALM, FPALM, STORM, and dSTORM.

Stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (STORM), photo activated localization microscopy (PALM), and fluorescence photo-activation localization microscopy (FPALM) are super-resolution imaging techniques that utilize sequential activation and time-resolved localization of photoswitchable fluorophores to create high resolution images. During imaging, only an optically resolvable subset of fluorophores is activated to a fluorescent state at any given moment, such that the position of each fluorophore can be determined with high precision by finding the centroid positions of the single-molecule images of a particular fluorophore. One subset of fluorophores is subsequently deactivated, and another subset is activated and imaged. Iteration of this process allows numerous fluorophores to be localized and a super-resolution image to be constructed from the image data.

STORM has also been extended to three-dimensional imaging using optical astigmatism, in which the elliptical shape of the point spread function encodes the x, y, and z positions for samples up to several micrometers thick, and has been demonstrated in living cells. To date, the spatial resolution achieved by this technique is ~20 nm in the lateral dimensions and ~50 nm in the axial dimension.