Quantum limits for precisely estimating the orientation and wobble of dipole emitters

Oumeng Zhang, Matthew D. Lew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Precisely measuring molecular orientation is key to understanding how molecules organize and interact in soft matter, but the maximum theoretical limit of measurement precision has yet to be quantified. We use quantum estimation theory and Fisher information (QFI) to derive a fundamental bound on the precision of estimating the orientations of rotationally fixed molecules. While direct imaging of the microscope pupil achieves the quantum bound, it is not compatible with wide-field imaging, so we propose an interferometric imaging system that also achieves QFI-limited measurement precision. Extending our analysis to rotationally diffusing molecules, we derive conditions that enable a subset of second-order dipole orientation moments to be measured with quantum-limited precision. Interestingly, we find that no existing techniques can measure all second moments simultaneously with QFI-limited precision; there exists a fundamental trade-off between precisely measuring the mean orientation of a molecule versus its wobble. This theoretical analysis provides crucial insight for optimizing the design of orientation-sensitive imaging systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number033114
JournalPhysical Review Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2020


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