First Flexible Optical Tweezer

Dynamic holographic optical tweezers (HOT) manipulation of eight particles in a rotating cube arrangement. (Source: NPG / IPHT)

Optical traps are tightly focused light beams that can be used to confine, manipulate and examine micro­scale objects such as cells or DNA. Tweezers made of light are not new. Due to their bulky optics, researchers so far could only mani­pulate and study biomo­lecules outside their natural environment on micro­scope slides. The team of researchers around Tomáš Čižmár at Leibniz-Insti­tute of Photonic Tech­nology in Jena deploys such traps for the first time through hair-thin optical fibers.

With their small diameter, the fibers are capable of pene­trating through living tissues and organisms without causing any major damage. “We are now able to reach yet un­explored cavities and to study cellular components or even single molecules in their natural complex environ­ment. In future, we hope to better under­stand cellular mecha­nisms and processes, in particular those related to the beginning of diseases,“ Čižmár explains one possible appli­cation of the tech­nology.

The research work demon­strated real-time mani­pulation of 3-D arrangements of micro-objects with nanometric reso­lution, using light and the novel fiber-based optical traps. The results provide the basis for further research projects with the objective to develop hair-thin endo­scopic fiber probes for imaging deep inside living tissues and other complex environ­ments. (Source: IPHT)

Reference: I. T. Leite et al.: Three-dimensional holographic optical manipulation through a high-numerical-aperture soft-glass multimode fibre, Nat. Phot., online 4. Dezember 2017; DOI: 10.1038/s41566-017-0053-8

Link: Dept. Fibre Optics, Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology IPHT, Jena, Germany

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