Low-light photodetectors for fluorescence microscopy

Hiroaki Yokota, Atsuhito Fukasawa, Minako Hirano, Toru Ide

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Over the years, fluorescence microscopy has evolved and has become a necessary element of life science studies. Microscopy has elucidated biological processes in live cells and organisms, and also enabled tracking of biomolecules in real time. Development of highly sensitive photodetectors and light sources, in addition to the evolution of various illumination methods and fluorophores, has helped microscopy acquire single-molecule fluorescence sensitivity, enabling single-molecule fluorescence imaging and detection. Low-light photodetectors used in microscopy are classified into two categories: point photodetectors and wide-field photodetectors. Although point photodetectors, notably photomultiplier tubes (PMTs), have been commonly used in laser scanning microscopy (LSM) with a confocal illumination setup, wide-field photodetectors, such as electron-multiplying charge-coupled devices (EMCCDs) and scientific complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (sC-MOS) cameras have been used in fluorescence imaging. This review focuses on the former low-light point photodetectors and presents their fluorescence microscopy applications and recent progress. These photodetectors include conventional PMTs, single photon avalanche diodes (SPADs), hybrid photodetectors (HPDs), in addition to newly emerging photodetectors, such as silicon photomultipli-ers (SiPMs) (also known as multi-pixel photon counters (MPPCs)) and superconducting nanowire single photon detectors (SSPDs). In particular, this review shows distinctive features of HPD and application of HPD to wide-field single-molecule fluorescence detection.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2773
JournalApplied Sciences (Switzerland)
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2 2021


  • Fluorescence microscopy
  • Hybrid photodetector (HPD)
  • Low-light photodetectors
  • Single-molecule fluorescence detection
  • Time-resolved fluorescence microscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Instrumentation
  • Engineering(all)
  • Process Chemistry and Technology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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