Can super-resolution microscopy become a standard characterization technique for materials chemistry?

Shikha Dhiman, Teodora Andrian, Beatriz Santiago Gonzalez, Marrit M.E. Tholen, Yuyang Wang, Lorenzo Albertazzi (Corresponding author)

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The characterization of newly synthesized materials is a cornerstone of all chemistry and nanotechnology laboratories. For this purpose, a wide array of analytical techniques have been standardized and are used routinely by laboratories across the globe. With these methods we can understand the structure, dynamics and function of novel molecular architectures and their relations with the desired performance, guiding the development of the next generation of materials. Moreover, one of the challenges in materials chemistry is the lack of reproducibility due to improper publishing of the sample preparation protocol. In this context, the recent adoption of the reporting standard MIRIBEL (Minimum Information Reporting in Bio-Nano Experimental Literature) for material characterization and details of experimental protocols aims to provide complete, reproducible and reliable sample preparation for the scientific community. Thus, MIRIBEL should be immediately adopted in publications by scientific journals to overcome this challenge. Besides current standard spectroscopy and microscopy techniques, there is a constant development of novel technologies that aim to help chemists unveil the structure of complex materials. Among them super-resolution microscopy (SRM), an optical technique that bypasses the diffraction limit of light, has facilitated the study of synthetic materials with multicolor ability and minimal invasiveness at nanometric resolution. Although still in its infancy, the potential of SRM to unveil the structure, dynamics and function of complex synthetic architectures has been highlighted in pioneering reports during the last few years. Currently, SRM is a sophisticated technique with many challenges in sample preparation, data analysis, environmental control and automation, and moreover the instrumentation is still expensive. Therefore, SRM is currently limited to expert users and is not implemented in characterization routines. This perspective discusses the potential of SRM to transition from a niche technique to a standard routine method for material characterization. We propose a roadmap for the necessary developments required for this purpose based on a collaborative effort from scientists and engineers across disciplines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2152-2166
Number of pages15
JournalChemical Science
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
L. A. acknowledges the nancial support by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (PID2019-109450RB-I00/ AEI/10.13039/501100011033), European Research Council/ Horizon 2020 (ERC-StG-757397), “la Caixa” Foundation (ID 100010434), and the Generalitat de Catalunya (through the CERCA program and 2017 SGR 01536). L. A. and M. M. E. T. acknowledge the support of NWO through the VIDI grant 192.028. S. D. thanks EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement no. 899987 for “Eurotech postdoc2” fellowship. T. A. thanks Marie Skłodowska-Curie Horizon 2020 (713673), “la Caixa” Foundation (ID 100010434, code LCF/BQ/DI18/11660039) fellowship. B. S. G. thanks H2020-Marie Skłodowska-Curie IF LUCENT (844384) fellowship.

Funding Information:
Dr Shikha Dhiman obtained her MS in Chemical Science (2017) and PhD in Organic and Supra- molecular Chemistry (2020) from Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientic Research (JNCASR, India) on the theme of structural and temporal control over supramolecular materials. Since 2020, she has been pursuing her postdoctoral research at Eindhoven Univer- sity of Technology (TU/e, The Netherlands) and has been awarded an ICMS fellowship. She has received a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Eurotech fellowship for joint postdoctoral research with TU/e and Technische Universität München, Germany. Her research focus is on application of super-resolution microscopy to unravel cell–material interactions for rational design of supramolecular biomaterials as stem-cell matrices.


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