Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Ning Fang


Single particle orientation and rotational tracking (SPORT) has recently become a powerful optical microscopy tool that can expose many molecular motions. Unfortunately, there is not yet a single microscopy technique that can decipher all particle motions in all environmental conditions, thus there are limitations to current technologies. Within, the two powerful microscopy tools of total internal reflection and interferometry are advanced to determine the position, orientation, and optical properties of metallic nanoparticles in a variety of environments.

Total internal reflection is an optical phenomenon that has been applied to microscopy to produce either fluorescent or scattered light. The non-invasive far-field imaging technique is coupled with a near-field illumination scheme that allows for better axial resolution than confocal microscopy and epi-fluorescence microscopy. By controlling the incident illumination angle using total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy, a new type of imaging probe called "non-blinking" quantum dots (NBQDs) were super-localized in the axial direction to sub-10-nm precision. These particles were also used to study the rotational motion of microtubules being propelled by the motor protein kinesin across the substrate surface.

The same instrument was modified to function under total internal reflection scattering (TIRS) microscopy to study metallic anisotropic nanoparticles and their dynamic interactions with synthetic lipid bilayers. Utilizing two illumination lasers with opposite polarization directions at wavelengths corresponding to the short and long axis surface plasmon resonance (SPR) of the nanoparticles, both the in-plane and out-of-plane movements of many particles could be tracked simultaneously. When combined with Gaussian point spread function (PSF) fitting for particle super-localization, the binding status and rotational movement could be resolved without degeneracy.

TIRS microscopy was also used to find the 3D orientation of stationary metallic anisotropic nanoparticles utilizing only long-axis SPR enhancement. The polarization direction of the illuminating light was rotated causing the relative intensity of p-polarized and s-polarized light within the evanescent field to change. The interaction of the evanescent field with the particles is dependent on the orientation of the particle producing an intensity curve. This curve and the in-plane angle can be compared with simulations to accurately determine the 3D orientation.

Differential interference contrast (DIC) microscopy is another non-invasive far-field technique based upon interferometry that does not rely on staining or other contrast enhancing techniques. In addition, high numerical aperture condensers and objectives can be used to give a very narrow depth of field allowing for the optical tomography of samples, which makes it an ideal candidate to study biological systems. DIC microscopy has also proven itself in determining the orientation of gold nanorods in both engineered environments and within cells.

Many types of nanoparticles and nanostructures have been synthesized using lithographic techniques on silicon wafer substrates. Traditionally, reflective mode DIC microscopes have been developed and applied to the topographical study of reflective substrates and the imaging of chips on silicon wafers. Herein, a laser-illuminated reflected-mode DIC was developed for studying nanoparticles on reflective surfaces.


Copyright Owner

Kyle Marchuk



File Format


File Size

115 pages