The increase in spatial resolution in STED microscopy is dependent on the STED depletion intensity and can be described mathematically. This page gives the mathematical derivation of the inverse-square-root STED formula:
Let be the normalized excitation probability in the focal plane resulting from the excitation pulse. After the passage of a STED pulse, the fluorescence probability of a molecule has decayed to
with , and denoting the cross section for stimulated emission, STED pulse duration and the focal intensity of the STED pulse, respectively. Note that her is given by number of photons per unit area per unit time.
As a result of the overlapping STED beam, the probability to detect a photon from location is proportional to
Given a lens with semi aperture , we can describe the spatial excitation probability and the STED intensity by:
Normalized cross sections of and are also illustrated in figure 1 (a) as the blue curve and yellow curve respectively.
is simply the maximum STED intensity in the doughnut shape. For further simplification we can define the constant as
If we combine equations (1), (3), (4) and (5) with equation (2), and use the approximation , equation (2) can be written as:
is the FWHM of the effective fluorescent spot, which cross section is also represented as the green curve in Figure 1 (b). We can further approximate equation (6) with a Taylor series to the second order:
At the FWHM we have , so we can solve for :
The FWHM can then be described with:
From equation (1) we can see that for the fluorescence has dropped to of the initial value. By introducing in equation (9) we obtain:
Equation (10) is the familiar inverse square root intensity law for STED: the FWHM resolution approximately scales with the inverse square root of the STED intensity. In case of gated-STED there is an additional factor that takes the effect of gating into account, leading to an additional resolution increase.
 Remko R.M. Dijkstra, Design and realization of a CW-STED super-resolution microscope setup, Master Thesis , University of Twente, 2012
 Volker Westphal and Stefan W. Hell, ''Nanoscale Resolution in the Focal Plane of an Optical Microscope, Phys. Rev. Lett. 94, 143903, April 2005