Stimulated Emission Depletion (STED) Microscopy-Bioimaging

Stimulated Emission Depletion (STED) Microscopy-Bioimaging

Introduction of Stimulated Emission Depletion (STED) Microscopy

In the vast realm of microscopy techniques, Stimulated Emission Depletion (STED) microscopy stands out as a powerful tool for imaging objects at the nanoscale. This revolutionary method, developed in the late 1990s, has revolutionized our ability to observe intricate details of biological and material structures with unprecedented resolution. By exploiting the principles of light physics, STED microscopy has opened new doors for scientists and researchers, shedding light on previously hidden realms of scientific exploration.

Understanding the Basics of STED Microscopy

At its core, STED microscopy harnesses the phenomenon of stimulated emission, which occurs when atoms or molecules are excited by an incoming photon and subsequently release another photon with the same properties. In traditional microscopy, diffraction of light limits the resolution to around 200-300 nanometers, preventing the observation of intricate structures at the molecular level. STED microscopy overcomes this limitation by using a laser beam that excites the fluorophores in a sample, while another laser beam selectively depletes the excited molecules to create a tiny region of fluorescence emission.

Figure 1. Principles of STED-FCS and STED-RICS.Figure 1. Principles of STED-FCS and STED-RICS. (Per Niklas Hedde, et al.; 2013)

The STED microscope setup consists of two synchronized lasers, a focusing objective lens, and a detector. The excitation laser stimulates fluorescence throughout the sample, while the depletion laser confines the fluorescence emission to a specific region. By scanning the sample point by point and collecting the emitted light, an image with resolution beyond the diffraction limit can be reconstructed, revealing intricate details previously unattainable.

Unleashing Super-Resolution Capabilities

The true power of STED microscopy lies in its ability to achieve super-resolution imaging. By exploiting the phenomenon of stimulated emission, the resolution can be pushed well below the diffraction limit, down to a few tens of nanometers or even less. This breakthrough has opened up new possibilities in various scientific disciplines.

In the field of biology, STED microscopy has enabled scientists to visualize subcellular structures with exceptional clarity. It has unraveled the complex organization of proteins within cells, shedding light on fundamental biological processes. Moreover, STED microscopy has proven invaluable in neuroscience, allowing researchers to study the intricate connectivity and organization of neuronal networks in unprecedented detail.

Outside of biology, STED microscopy finds applications in materials science, enabling scientists to explore the nanoscale structures of materials, such as semiconductors, catalysts, and polymers. This knowledge has implications for the development of advanced materials and the optimization of various technological applications.


Stimulated Emission Depletion (STED) microscopy has revolutionized our ability to explore the nanoworld with exceptional resolution. By harnessing the principles of stimulated emission, STED microscopy has transcended the limitations of traditional microscopy techniques. Its super-resolution capabilities have paved the way for groundbreaking discoveries in biology, neuroscience, materials science, and beyond. As we continue to delve into the mysteries of the nanoscale world, STED microscopy will undoubtedly play a crucial role in expanding our scientific understanding.

  1. Jahr W, et al.; Strategies to maximize performance in STimulated Emission Depletion (STED) nanoscopy of biological specimens. Methods. 2020, 174:27-41.
  2. Liu Y, et al.; Shedding New Lights Into STED Microscopy: Emerging Nanoprobes for Imaging. Front Chem. 2021, 9:641330.
  3. Zhang J, et al.; Low-Power Two-Color Stimulated Emission Depletion Microscopy for Live Cell Imaging. Biosensors (Basel). 2021, 11(9):330.
  4. Per Niklas Hedde, et al.; Stimulated emission depletion-based raster image correlation spectroscopy reveals biomolecular dynamics in live cells. Nature Communications. 2013, volume 4, 2093.

*If your organization requires the signing of a confidentiality agreement, please contact us by email.

Please note: Our services can only be used for research purposes. Do not use in diagnostic or therapeutic procedures!

Online Inquiry