ICFO (Barcelona, Spain)

ICFO aims to advance the very limits of knowledge in Photonics, namely the science and technology of harnessing Light for fundamental physics, chemistry, material science, and applications in biological and medical research. Within ICFO, the SLN lab is equipped with cutting edge microscopy techniques and performs continuous development to provide unique features. The research programs cover a wide range of applications, from super resolution to mesoscopic levels. We collaborate with industry, hospitals and research centres. Our systems are available to all type of end-users. We provide training that can be accommodated to any type of user.
Research highlights

The Institute of Photonic Sciences;
Barcelona, Spain



ICFO - Núria Charles-Harris
SLN - Dr. Pablo Loza-Alvarez

Attoscience and Ultrafast Optics

Investigation of the real-time dynamics of electrons and nuclei in atoms, molecules and solids to determine the underlying multi-body physics and correlations. This research addresses questions of fundamental and applied nature, ranging from chemical isomerization to phase transitions and energy harvesting. 

Cellular and Molecular Biology

Optimizing new molecular tools for high resolution detection of cellular events regulated by ubiquitin family members

SLN Facility

At the Superresolution Light microscopy and Nanoscopy (SLN) facility, we analyse network functional alterations after a focal lesion in neuronal tissue by combining laser microsurgery and calcium fluorescence imaging. We show that the network actively participate in recovery, restoring the initial network activity. Our approach offers new insights for modelling network functional loss and recovery with applications that go from stroke to degenerative disorders. [eNeuro 7, 1-13 (2020)]

A major challenge is the generation of reproducible neural networks together with the ability to interrogate and record at the single cell level. In this study, we report on the use of 2PP scaffolds with tailored topographies as an effective method of producing defined in vitro human neural networks  for application in influencing neurite guidance and complex network activity. [Lab on a Chip 20, 1792-1806 (2020)]

Projects performed by external users >>


Figure of the Attoscience Facility. Shown is the SXR beamline (left) and Reaction Microscope (right)ICFO

Theory, laser development, nonlinear topics, extreme photonics, Attoscience, x-ray spectroscopy, electron diffraction, fabrication, biological and medical research.


We conduct research and development at the cutting-edge of several microscopy and super resolution imaging techniques. We combine different technologies to make them compatible in a multimodal imaging fashion. Research activities include beam engineering, wavefront control and integration of novel light sources with different beam or pulse parameters. We study novel (endogenous and exogenous) contrast agents to be applied to a wide variety of biomedical samples and imaging regimes. We also design novel algorithms for image quantification and analysis. Finally, our research involves optical manipulation tools such as Optical Tweezers and Femtosecond nanosurgery.

Equipment offered to external users

ICFOA 2dpf zebrafish larvae is imaged using a LSFM setup developed at ICFO, at the Super-resolution Light microscopy and Nanoscopy (SLN) facility with a double illumination scheme. (Scale bar 100 um)

  • Attoscience facility
    • UV to mid-IR laser sources
    • Attosecond SXR beamline
    • Reaction Micorscope, Single-Molecule Electron Diffraction
  • Etching: ICP, RIE and wNanofabrication lab
    • Lithography: electron-beam and optical lithography
    • Focused Ion Beam: Ga/e- and He/Ne dual-beam tools
    • Etching: ICP, RIE and wet etching
    • Thin film deposition: thermal and electron-beam evaporation, sputtering, atomic layer deposition
    • Surface preparation: plasma asher, UVO cleaner, ovens
    • Characterization: SEM, EDX, atomic force microscopy, spectroscopic ellipsometry, profilometry, microscopy, etc.
    • Specific controlled environment: glove boxes, fume hoods, laminar flows, etc.
  • Super-resolution Light Microscopy & Nanoscopy Facility
  • Advanced Engineering Lab
  • Biology Lab
    • Molecular Biology: Molecular cloning. Gene expression. PCR. Electrophoresis. Genome editing using CRSPR/Cas9 technology.
    • Biochemistry: Protein purification. PAGE. Western blot. Elisa.
    • Mammalian cells: Routine cell culture and sample preparation. Transient transfection. Generation of stably transfected cell lines. Cryopreservation.
    • Immunoassays: Antibody conjugation. Immunosfluorescence. Immunoprecipitation.
    • Microorganisms: Routine culture.  Maintenance and update of a bacterial strain collection. Plasmid propagation and purification.
    • Culture of wild type and different mutants of invertebrate model organism Caenorhabditis elegans.
    • Biological sample handling and preparation for STORM and other super resolution microscopy techniques.

SLNComposition showing 3 zebrafish embryos undergoing epiboly.

  • A STED microscope, 3 colour, 3D, gated. 
  • STED CW microscope, operating also as a multiphoton (TPEF, SHG).
  • A multimodal confocal microscope operating also as a multiphoton (TPEF, SHG, PSHG, THG). The system can be coupled to different ultrashort pulsed lasers working at the central wavelength of 800-900nm, 960nm, 1040-1060nm, 1500nm.
  • A custom made multiphoton microscope system (TPEF, SHG, PSHG, THG).
  • Custom made Light Sheet Microscopes (3):
    • high throughput combined with fluidics, multiview.
    • Fast volumetric imaging, with different resolutions (low and high NA), using electrically tunabe lenses or wavefront coding
    • Ultramicroscope for clarified samples
  • A Raman microscope and expertise in statistical analysis of biological samples.
  • A custom made Adaptive Optics based Scanning Laser Ophthalmoscope with retinal tracker