Optical tools

E. Roncali, B. Tavitian, I. E. Texier, P. Peltié, F. Perraut, J. Boutet, L. Cognet, B. Lounis, D. Marguet, O. Thoumine, M. Tramier

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


Fluorescence is a physical phenomenon described for the first time in 1852 by the British scientist George G. Stokes, famous for his work in mathematics and hydrodynamics. He observed the light emitted by a mineral after excitation (absorption of light by the mineral) by UV light. He then formulated what has become known as Stokes' law, which says that the wavelength of fluorescence emission is longer than the excitation wavelength used to generate it. Some phenomena departing from this rule were later discovered, but do not in fact invalidate it. The possibility of visible excitation was subsequently developed, with the discovery of many fluorescing aromaticmolecules, called fluorophores. The identification of these compounds and improved control over the physical phenomenon meant that by 1930 research tools had been developed in biology, e.g., labeling certain tissues and bacteria so as to observe them by fluorescence. The optical microscope as it had existed since the nineteenth century thus gave rise to the fluorescence microscope: a reflection system to supply the light required to excite the fluorophores was added to the standard microscope, together with a suitable filtering system. Fluorescence microscopy soon became an important tool for biological analysis both in vitro and ex vivo, and other applications of light emission were also devised (light-emission phenomena of which fluorescence is a special case, described further in Sect. 7.2). It became possible to study phenomena that could not be observed by standard optical microscopy. Among other things, the location of molecules inside cells, monitoring of intracellular processes, and detection of single molecules all become feasible by means of fluorescence microscopy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNanoscience
Subtitle of host publicationNanobiotechnology and Nanobiology
PublisherSpringer Berlin Heidelberg
Number of pages121
ISBN (Print)9783642105586
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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