Far-field optical microscopy using focused light is an important tool in a number of scientific disciplines including chemical, (bio) physical and biomedical research, particularly with respect to the study of living cells and organisms. Unfortunately, the applicability of the optical microscope is limited, since the diffraction of light imposes limitations on the spatial resolution of the image. Consequently the details of, for example, cellular protein distributions, can be visualized only to a certain extent. Fortunately, recent years have witnessed the development of 'super-resolution' farfield optical microscopy (nanoscopy) techniques such as stimulated emission depletion (STED), ground state depletion (GSD), reversible saturated optical (fluorescence) transitions (RESOLFT), photoactivation localization microscopy (PALM), stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (STORM), structured illumination microscopy (SIM) or saturated structured illumination microscopy (SSIM), all in one way or another addressing the problem of the limited spatial resolution of far-field optical microscopy. While SIM achieves a two-fold improvement in spatial resolution compared to conventional optical microscopy, STED, RESOLFT, PALM/STORM, or SSIM have all gone beyond, pushing the limits of optical image resolution to the nanometer scale. Consequently, all super-resolution techniques open new avenues of biomedical research. Because the field is so young, the potential capabilities of different super-resolution microscopy approaches have yet to be fully explored, and uncertainties remain when considering the best choice of methodology. Thus, even for experts, the road to the future is sometimes shrouded in mist. The super-resolution optical microscopy roadmap of Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics addresses this need for clarity. It provides guidance to the outstanding questions through a collection of short review articles from experts in the field, giving a thorough discussion on the concepts underlying super-resolution optical microscopy, the potential of different approaches, the importance of label optimization (such as reversible photoswitchable proteins) and applications in which these methods will have a significant impact.
Institute of Physics (IOP), 2015. Vol. 48, no 44, 443001