Letter | Published:

Optical trapping and manipulation of single cells using infrared laser beams

Nature volume 330, pages 769771 (31 December 1987) | Download Citation



Use of optical traps for the manipulation of biological particles was recently proposed, and initial observations of laser trapping of bacteria and viruses with visible argon-laser light were reported1. We report here the use of infrared (IR) light to make much improved laser traps with significantly less optical damage to a variety of living cells. Using IR light we have observed the reproduction of Escherichia coliwithin optical traps at power levels sufficient to give manipulation at velocities up to 500 µm s−1 Reproduction of yeast cells by budding was also achieved in IR traps capable of manipulating individual cells and clumps of cells at velocities of 100 µm s−1. Damage-free trapping and manipulation of suspensions of red blood cells of humans and of organelles located within individual living cells of spirogyra was also achieved, largely as a result of the reduced absorption of haemoglobin and chlorophyll in the IR. Trapping of many types of small protozoa and manipulation of organelles within protozoa is also possible. The manipulative capabilities of optical techniques were exploited in experiments showing separation of individual bacteria from one sample and their introduction into another sample. Optical orientation of individual bacterial cells in space was also achieved using a pair of laser-beam traps. These new manipulative techniques using IR light are capable of producing large forces under damage-free conditions and improve the prospects for wider use of optical manipulation techniques in microbiology.


  1. 1.

    1. Ashkin, A. & Dziedzic, J. M. Science 235, 1517-1520 (1987). 2. Ashkin, A. Phys. Rev. Lett. 24, 156-159 (1970). 3. Ashkin, A. Science 210, 1081-1088 (1980). 4. Ashkin, A. Phys. Rev. Lett. 40, 729-732 (1978). 5. Ashkin, A., Dziedzic, J. M., Bjorkholm, J. E. & Chu, S. Opt. Lett. 11, 288-290 (1986). 6. Chu, S., Bjorkholm, J. E., Ashkin, A. & Cable, A. E. Phys. Rev. Lett. 57, 314-317 (1986). 7. Ashkin, A. & Dziedzic, J. M. Appl. Opt. 19, 660-668 (1980).

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  1. AT & T Bell Laboratories, Holmdel, New Jersey 07733, USA

    • A. Ashkin
    •  & J. M. Dziedzic
  2. AT & T Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill, New Jersey 07974, USA

    • T. Yamane


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