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The Super-Resolution Revolution

Cambridge scientists are part of a resolution revolution. Building powerful instruments that shatter the physical limits of optical microscopy, they are beginning to watch molecular processes as they happen, and in three dimensions. Here, Professor Clemens Kaminski describes how a new era of super-resolution microscopy has begun.

The developments earned inventors Eric Betzig and William E Moerner (USA) and Stefan Hell (Germany) the 2014 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, and are based on clever physical tricks that work around the problem of light diffraction.

Among the scientists in Cambridge who are using the techniques, Kaminski’s team in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology designs and builds super-resolution microscopes to study Alzheimer’s disease. “The technology is based on a conceptual change, a different way of thinking about how we resolve tiny structures. By imaging blobs of light as separate points in time, we are able to discriminate them spatially, and thus prevent image blur.” Their work is funded by the Medical Research Council, Wellcome Trust, Alzheimers Research UK, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Leverhulme Trust.

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