Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Optical trapping and manipulation of single cells using infrared laser beams


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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  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).

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ashkin, A., Dziedzic, J. & Yamane, T. Optical trapping and manipulation of single cells using infrared laser beams. Nature 330, 769–771 (1987).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing