Date of Award

12-2006

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Physics

Major Professor

Lloyd M. Davis

Committee Members

Christian G. Parigger, Horace W. Crater, James W. Lewis, Ying-Ling Chen, Basil N. Antar, Robert N. Compton

Abstract

A glass capillary is used near the focal region of a custom-built confocal microscope to investigate the use of active transport for single-molecule detection in solution, with both one and two-photon laser excitation. The capillary tip has a diameter of several microns and is carefully aligned nearby to the sub-micron laser beam waist, collinear to the optical axis, so that a negative pressure-difference causes molecules to be drawn into the capillary, along the laser beam axis. The flow of solution, which is characterized by fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS), can increase the single-molecule detection rate for slowly diffusing proteins by over a factor of 100, while the mean rate of photons during each burst is similar to that for random diffusional transport. Also, the flow is along the longest axis of the ellipsoidally-shaped confocal volume, which results in more collected photons per molecule than that for transverse flow at the same speed. When transport is dominated by flow, FCS can no longer distinguish molecules with differing translational diffusion, and hence a fluorescence fluctuation spectroscopy method based on differences in fluorescence brightness is investigated as a means for assaying different solution components, for applications in pharmaceutical drug discovery. Multi-channel fluctuation spectroscopy techniques can also be used for assays with the flow system and hence this dissertation also reports the characterization of a prototype 4-channel single- photon detector with a two-wavelength polarization-resolved optical set-up.

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