Chemistry Nobel Prize 2014

Super-Resolved Fluorescence Microscopy. WHAT IS THAT????

Who Were the Winners???

What Did They Do???

Stefan Hell


  • While reading a textbook, Stefan Hell came up with the concept of STED microscopy
  • STED stands for stimulated emission depletion
  • Stimulated emission depletion is a method, in which laser light excites fluorescent molecules (causing them to become dark and stop glowing) and another light in the center of this laser light causes an individual molecule to glow. In this way, one molecule is glowing and all the molecules around it are dark, and the exact location of the lit-up molecule is known
  • The laser moves past each individual molecule, until all the molecules in a cell organelle are known, and an image of the organelle can be captured with very high clarity



Eric Betzig


  • Eric Betzig came up with and practiced single-molecule microscopy by putting glowing proteins in the cell membrane of a lysosome
  • Then using a very weak light, he was able to cause a fraction of these proteins to glow. Because there was only a very small fraction of proteins that were lit up, they were spread out across the membrane
  • The distance between the lit up proteins was more than Abbe’s diffraction unit, so the microscope captured the image precisely.
  • This process was continuously repeated on a new subgroup of proteins , and then all the images were superimposed to for a complete and high resolution image of the membrane


William E. Moerner


  • William E. Moerner was the first scientist in the world who was able to measure the light absorption of a single molecule

  • This discovery is what prompted interest in observing individual molecules.

  • He also discovered that fluorescent molecules, like those in jellyfish, can turn on and off at will; this idea is the backbone of STED microscopy and single-molecule microscopy.

What in the World Does That Mean???

Basically, these scientists were able to make specific cell parts glow, and then observe the part.

Why Did They Win???

They solved a problem that has been around for quite some time - Abbe's diffraction limit. Previously, it was believed that there was a limit to the resolution, or clarity, of microscopic images (about half of the length of the wave length of the light emitted). However, these three guys broke through the limit and found a way to see extremely tiny objects like cells clearer than ever. This helps because scientists can now better their understandings of functions occurring inside living cells. This may provide insight to how certain disease such as cancer develop.