Optical microscopy, and fluorescence microscopy in particular, has emerged as one of the most powerful and convenient microscopic tools available today. This power does come at a price, however, in terms of a limited spatial resolution: traditionally fluorescence microscopy has been limited by diffraction to a resolution of a few hundred nanometers, far too large to discern nanostructuring in biological or material samples. Recent conceptual advances have emerged that challenge this once-thought ‘unbreakable’ barrier, and fluorescence microscopy with nanometer resolution is now within reach. In this review we highlight some of the approaches that have made this paradigm shift possible.

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DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(09)70003-3