Author(s): G Thalhammer, R Steiger, S Bernet and M Ritsch-Marte


“Optical micromanipulation stands for contact-free handling of microscopic particles by light. Optical forces can manipulate non-absorbing objects in a large range of sizes, e.g., from biological cells down to cold atoms. Recently much progress has been made going from the micro- down to the nanoscale. Less attention has been paid to going the other way, trapping increasingly large particles. Optical tweezers typically employ a single laser beam tightly focused by a microscope objective of high numerical aperture to stably trap a particle in three dimensions (3D). As the particle size increases, stable 3D trapping in a single-beam trap requires scaling up the optical power, which eventually induces adverse biological effects. Moreover, the restricted field of view of standard optical tweezers, dictated by the use of high NA objectives, is particularly unfavorable for catching actively moving specimens. Both problems can be overcome by traps with counter-propagating beams. Our ‘macro-tweezers’ are especially designed to trap highly motile organisms, as they enable three-dimensional all-optical trapping and guiding in a volume of 2 × 1 × 2 mm³. Here we report for the first time the optical trapping of large actively swimming organisms, such as for instance Euglena protists and dinoflagellates of up to 70 µm length. Adverse bio-effects are kept low since trapping occurs outside high intensity regions, e.g., focal spots. We expect our approach to open various possibilities in the contact-free handling of 50–100 µm sized objects that could hitherto not be envisaged, for instance all-optical holding of individual micro-organisms for taxonomic identification, selective collecting or tagging.”

Link to Publications Page

Publication: Journal of Optics, (subscription required)

Issue/Year/DOI: J. Opt. 13 (2011) 044024 (6pp),