Photonics Dictionary


Label-free refers to a technique or method that does not require the use of additional labels, tags, or markers to detect or identify specific components or entities. In various scientific and technological applications, labeling often involves attaching fluorescent dyes, radioactive isotopes, or other markers to molecules, cells, or structures of interest. However, in label-free approaches, detection or analysis is performed without the need for these additional labels.

Common applications of label-free techniques include:

Label-free imaging: Techniques like label-free microscopy, such as phase contrast or differential interference contrast microscopy, allow researchers to observe and analyze samples without the need for staining or fluorescent labeling.

Biosensors: Label-free biosensors can detect biological molecules or interactions without the use of labels. Surface plasmon resonance (SPR) and quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) are examples of label-free biosensing technologies.

Proteomics and genomics: Label-free mass spectrometry techniques can be used to quantify proteins or nucleic acids without the need for pre-labeling, providing insights into the composition and changes within biological samples.

Cellular and molecular analysis: Label-free techniques in cellular and molecular biology, such as impedance-based assays or refractive index measurements, enable researchers to study cellular responses or interactions without introducing foreign labels that may alter the biological properties of the sample.

Label-free approaches are often preferred in research and diagnostics because they can reduce experimental artifacts, preserve sample integrity, and simplify experimental procedures. These techniques have found applications in various scientific disciplines, including biology, chemistry, physics, and medical research.

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