• distance measurements;
  • fluorescence spectroscopy;
  • plasmonics;
  • single-molecule studies;
  • super-resolution microscopy


We present a new concept for measuring distance values of single molecules from a surface with nanometer accuracy using the energy transfer from the excited molecule to surface plasmons of a metal film. We measure the fluorescence lifetime of individual dye molecules deposited on a dielectric spacer as a function of a spacer thickness. By using our theoretical model, we convert the lifetime values into the axial distance of individual molecules. Similar to Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET), this allows emitters to be localized with nanometer accuracy, but in contrast to FRET the distance range at which efficient energy transfer takes place is an order of magnitude larger. Our technique can be potentially used as a tool for measuring intramolecular distances of biomolecules and complexes.