Bulk approaches to studying heterogeneous systems obscure important details, as they report average behavior rather than the distribution of behaviors in such environments. Small-molecule and polymeric supercooled liquids, which display heterogeneity in their dynamics without an underlying structural heterogeneity that sets those dynamics, are important constituents of this category of condensed matter systems. A variety of approaches have been devised to unravel ensemble averaging in supercooled liquids. This review focuses on the ultimate subensemble approach, single-molecule measurements, as they have been applied to the study of supercooled liquids. We detail how three key experimental observables (single-molecule probe rotation, translation, and fluorescence lifetime) have been employed to provide detail on dynamic heterogeneity in supercooled liquids. Special attention is given to the potential for, but also the challenges in, discriminating spatial and temporal heterogeneity and detailing the length scales and timescales of heterogeneity in these systems.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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