Researchers demonstrate first flexible optical tweezer

(Nanowerk News) 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 Tomas Cizmar deploys such traps for the first time through hair-thin optical fibers. A technology reminding of the “proton packs” in the movie Ghostbusters. 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,“ Cizmar explains one possible application of the technology.
The presented 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.
The authors of the article, which was published in the scientific journal Nature Photonics ("Three-dimensional holographic optical manipulation through a high-numerical-aperture soft-glass multimode fibre"), are an international research team from Dundee (Scottland), Brno (Czech Republic), the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light in Erlangen and the Leibniz-IPHT in Jena.
Source: Leibniz-Institut für Photonische Technologien