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Optical pulling force

Nature Photonics volume 5, pages 531534 (2011) | Download Citation

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Abstract

A photon carries k of momentum, so it may be anticipated that light will ‘push’ on any object standing in its path by means of the scattering force1,2,3. In the absence of an intensity gradient, using a light beam to pull a particle backwards is counter-intuitive. Here, we show that it is possible to realize a backward scattering force that pulls a particle all the way towards the source without an equilibrium point. The underlining physics is the maximization of forward scattering via interference of the radiation multipoles. We show explicitly that the necessary condition to realize a negative (pulling) optical force is the simultaneous excitation of multipoles in the particle, and if the projection of the total photon momentum along the propagation direction is small, an attractive optical force is possible. This possibility adds ‘pulling’ as an additional degree of freedom to optical micromanipulation.

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Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge support from Hong Kong's Research Grants Council (GRF grant no. 600308), from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) (10774028) and the Chinese Ministry of Education (B06011). Computational resources were supported by the Shun Hing Education and Charity Fund.

Author information

Author notes

    • Jun Chen
    • , Jack Ng
    • , Zhifang Lin
    •  & C. T. Chan

    These authors contributed equally to this work

Affiliations

  1. State Key Laboratory of Surface Physics and Department of Physics, Fudan University, Shanghai 200433, China

    • Jun Chen
  2. Department of Physics, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Kowloon, Hong Kong

    • Jack Ng
    •  & C. T. Chan
  3. Key Laboratory of Micro and Nano Photonic Structures (Ministry of Education), Fudan University, Shanghai, China

    • Zhifang Lin

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Contributions

All authors contributed equally to this paper. J.C. discovered OPF and was responsible for the numerical simulations. J.N. was responsible for the physical interpretation and assisted in the mathematical derivation. Z.F.L. initiated the project and was responsible for most of the mathematical derivation and computer code development. C.T.C. oversaw and directed the whole project.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jack Ng.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nphoton.2011.153

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