As science and technology go nano, scientists search for new tools to manipulate, observe and modify the "building blocks" of matter at the nanometer scale. With this in mind, the recent publication in Nature Nanotechnology in which ICFO researchers demonstrate for the first time the ability to use near-field optical tweezers to trap a nano-size object and manipulate it in the 3 dimensions of space, is an exciting achievement. Romain Quidant, ICREA Professor and leader at ICFO of the Plasmon Nano-Optics research group comments that "this technique could revolutionize the field of nanoscience since, for the first time, we have shown that it is possible to trap, 3D manipulate and release a single nano-object without exerting any mechanical contact or other invasive action".
Imagine an elephant trying to grab an object the size of a needle with its gigantic hoof? Clearly this would be a tremendous if not impossible challenge because of the elephant's enormous size in comparison to that of the needle. Now imagine that our needle is a single molecule or tiny object about the size of a few nanometers and we, with our conventional tools, need to trap it and manipulate it in in order to, for example, understand its implication in the development of a disease. We have the same problem, first because a conventional optical microscope is not capable of visualizing a single molecule and second, because the physical limitations of our conventional tweezers are simply not capable of grasping or manipulating such small objects.
Invented in Bell Labs in the 80's, the original optical trapping demonstrated great capability to trap and manipulate small objects of micrometer size dimensions using laser light. By shining a laser light through a lens, it is possible to focus light in a tiny spot, creating an attractive force due to the gradient of the light intensity of the laser and thus attracting an object/specimen and maintaining it in the spo
|Contact: Alina Hirschmann|
ICFO-The Institute of Photonic Sciences