The development of nanotechnology relies heavily on the ability to observe and probe at molecular scales. Thus, breakthroughs in instrumentation and techniques play a significant role in the advancement in nanoscience. In this article, we survey recent developments in observing, trapping, and probing single molecules in solution. We give particular attention to patents that cover enabling instrumentation in each of these related areas including, respectively, fluorescence imaging, optical tweezers, and anti-Brownian traps. We conclude by highlighting a broad trend in the literature and patent base from observation toward active interrogation of single molecules in solution.
Keywords: Optical trap, fluorescent resonance energy transfer (FRET), optical tweezers, anti-brownian electrokinetic trap, single-molecule spectroscopy, single-molecule trapping, fluorescent tags
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