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Optical tweezing, originally demonstrated by Ashkin in 1970, has the ability to precisely manipulate objects ranging in size from 10’s of nanometers to 10’s of microns.
Objects can be manipulated when a tightly focused laser beam is used to illuminate an object whose refractive index is different than the surrounding medium. In holographic optical tweezing, a spatial light modulator (SLM) is used to produce a hologram that is imaged to the back aperture of a microscope objective. This configuration allows a user to simultaneously produce and independently manipulate multiple traps volumetrically within a three dimensional sample space. This powerful technique has found a wide range of applications, such as:
- measurement and control of the interactions between micro/nano particles and cellular components
- manipulation of microscopic particles to create new types of biological or colloidal assemblies
- trapping and sorting in microfluidic devices
- placement and orientation of cells to populate tissue scaffolds
- isolation or selection of certain types of particles or cells from larger mixed populations.
These applications provide powerful new tools in the areas of pharmaceutical research, cell and molecular biology, nanoparticle engineering, forensics, and cellular-based analysis/diagnostics.
Boulder Nonlinear Systems (BNS) is a leader in developing SLMs and SLM systems for holographic optical tweezers and has recently acquired the licenses to the holographic optical tweezers patents from the University of Chicago. Together with the University of Glasgow, BNS commercialized the first complete portable holographic optical tweezers system (now available as a standard product from Meadowlark Optics, Inc.) and BNS continues to develop new SLM backplanes, novel addressing schemes, and SLM-based modules and systems to increase trap strength, number of traps, and the addressable field of view.