Using ultra-low input power densities, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated for the first time how low-power "optical nanotweezers" can be used to trap, manipulate, and probe nanoparticles, including fragile biological samples.
"We already know that plasmonic nanoantennas enhance local fields by up to several orders of magnitude, and thus, previously showed that we can use these structures with a regular CW laser source to make very good optical tweezers," explains, Kimani Toussaint, Jr., assistant professor of mechanical science and engineering at Illinois. "This is exciting because, for the first time, we're showing that, the near-field optical forces can be enhanced even further, without doing anything extra in terms of fabrication, but rather simply by exploiting the high-peak powers associated with using a femtosecond (fs) optical source.
"We used an average power of 50 microwatts to trap, manipulate, and probe nanoparticles. This is 100x less power than what you would get from a standard laser pointer."
In their recent paper, "Femtosecond-pulsed plasmonic nanotweezers" published in the September 17 issue of Scientific Reports; doi:10.1038/srep00660), the researchers describe how a femtosecond-pulsed laser beam significantly augments the trapping strength of Au bowtie nanoantennas arrays (BNAs), and the first demonstration of use of femtosecond (fs) source for optical trapping with plasmonic nanotweezers.
"Our system operates at average power levels approximately three orders of magnitude lower than the expected optical damage threshold for biological structures, thereby making this technology very attractive for biological (lab-on-a-chip) applications such as cell manipulation," Toussaint added. "This system offers increased local diagnostic capabilities by permitting the probing of the nonlinear optical response of trapped specimens, enabling studies of in vitro fluo
|Contact: Kimani C. Toussaint, Jr.|
University of Illinois College of Engineering