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Correction of timing errors in photomultiplier tubes used in phase-modulation fluorometry

Journal of Biochemical and Biophysical Methods
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0165-022x(81)90012-9
  • Fluorescence Lifetimes
  • Photomultiplier Corrections
  • Phase-Modulation Fluorometers
  • Lifetime Standards


Abstract The measurement of fluorescence lifetimes is known to be hindered by the wavelenght-dependent and photocathode area-dependent time response of photomultiplier tubes. A simple and direct method is described to minimize the effects in photomultiplier tubes for phase-modulation fluorometry. Reference fluorophores of known lifetime were used in place of the usual scattering reference. The emission wavelenghts of the reference and sample were matched by either filters or a monochromator, and the use of a fluorophore rather than a scatter decreases the differences in spatial distribution of light emanating from the reference and sample. Thus photomultiplier tube artifacts are minimized. Five reference fluorophores were selected on the basis of availability, ease of solution preparation, and constancy of lifetime with temperature and emission wavelenght. These compounds are p-terphenyl, PPO, PPD, POPOP and dimethyl POPOP. These compounds are dissolved in ethanol to give standard solutions that can be used over the temperature range from −55 to +55°C. Purging with inert gas is not necessary. The measured phase and modulation of the reference solution is used, in conjunction with the known reference, lifetime, to calculate the actual phase and modulation of the exictation beam. The use of standard fluorophores does not require separate experiments to quantify photomultiplier effects, and does not increase the time required for the measurement of fluorescence lifetimes. Examples are presented which demonstrate the elimination of artifactual photomultiplier effects in measurements of the lifetimes of DADH (0.4 ns) and indole solutions quenched by iodide. In addition, the use of these reference solutions increases the accuracy of fluorescence lifetime measurements ranging ranging to 30 ns. We judge this method to provide more reliable lifetime measurements by the phase and modulation method. The test solutions and procedures we describe may be used by other laboratories to evaluate the performance of their phase fluorometers.

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