Yoctoliter Thermometry for Single-Molecule Investigations: A Generic Bead-on-a-Tip Temperature-Control Module


  • We would like to thank the Ohio Board of Regents and the NSF (CHE-1026532) for financial support.


A new temperature-jump (T-jump) strategy avoids photo-damage of individual molecules by focusing a low-intensity laser on a black microparticle at the tip of a capillary. The black particle produces an efficient photothermal effect that enables a wide selection of lasers with powers in the milliwatt range to achieve a T-jump of 65 °C within milliseconds. To measure the temperature in situ in single-molecule experiments, the temperature-dependent mechanical unfolding of a single DNA hairpin molecule was monitored by optical tweezers within a yoctoliter volume. Using this bead-on-a-tip module and the robust single-molecule thermometer, full thermodynamic landscapes for the unfolding of this DNA hairpin were retrieved. These approaches are likely to provide powerful tools for the microanalytical investigation of dynamic processes with a combination of T-jump and single-molecule techniques.