Understanding fluid flows and mass transport in nanospaces is becoming important with recent advances in nanofluidic analytical devices utilizing nanopores and nanochannels. In the present study, we developed a super-resolution and fast particle tracking method utilizing defocusing images with spherical aberration and demonstrated the measurement of nanochannel flow. Since the spherical aberration generates the defocusing nanoparticle image with diffraction rings, the position of fluorescent nanoparticles was determined from the radius of the diffraction ring. Effects of components of an optical system on the diffraction ring of the defocusing image were investigated and optimized to achieve the spatial resolution exceeding the optical diffraction limit. We found that there is an optimal magnitude of spherical aberration to enhance the spatial resolution. Furthermore, we confirmed that nanoparticles with diameters in the order of 101nm, which is much smaller than the light wavelength, do not affect the defocusing images and the spatial resolution because such nanoparticles can be regarded as point light sources. At optimized conditions, we achieved a spatial resolution of 19 nm and a temporal resolution of 160 μs, which are sufficient for the nanochannel flow measurements. We succeeded in the measurement of pressure-driven flow in a nanochannel with a depth of 370 nm using 67 nm fluorescent nanoparticles. The measured nanoparticle velocities exhibited a parabolic flow profile with a slip velocity even at the hydrophilic glass surface but with an average velocity similar to the Hagen-Poiseuille law. The method will accelerate researches in the nanofluidics and other related fields.
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