Letter | Published:

Enhanced optical trapping via structured scattering

Nature Photonics volume 9, pages 669673 (2015) | Download Citation

Abstract

Interferometry can completely redirect light, providing the potential for strong and controllable optical forces. However, small particles do not naturally act like interferometric beamsplitters and the optical scattering from them is not generally thought to allow efficient interference. Instead, optical trapping is typically achieved via deflection of the incident field. Here, we show that a suitably structured incident field can achieve beamsplitter-like interactions with scattering particles. The resulting trap offers order-of-magnitude higher stiffness than the usual Gaussian trap in one axis, even when constrained to phase-only structuring. We demonstrate trapping of 3.5–10.0 μm silica spheres, achieving a stiffness up to 27.5 ± 4.1 times higher than was possible using Gaussian traps as well as a two-orders-of-magnitude higher measured signal-to-noise ratio. These results are highly relevant to many applications, including cellular manipulation1,2, fluid dynamics3,4, micro-robotics5 and tests of fundamental physics6,7.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Australian Research Council Discovery Project (contract no. DP140100734) and by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (grant no. FA2386-14-1-4046). W.P.B. acknowledges support through the Australian Research Council Future Fellowship scheme FF140100650.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. School of Mathematics and Physics, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia

    • Michael A. Taylor
    • , Muhammad Waleed
    • , Alexander B. Stilgoe
    • , Halina Rubinsztein-Dunlop
    •  & Warwick P. Bowen
  2. Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP), Max F. Perutz Laboratories & Research Platform for Quantum Phenomena and Nanoscale Biological Systems (QuNaBioS), University of Vienna, Dr. Bohr Gasse 7-9, Vienna A-1030, Austria

    • Michael A. Taylor
  3. Australian Centre for Engineered Quantum Systems, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia

    • Halina Rubinsztein-Dunlop
    •  & Warwick P. Bowen

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Contributions

M.A.T. and W.P.B. conceived and led the project. M.A.T. developed the theoretical concepts and performed the calculations and analysis. A.B.S. and H.R.D. developed the experimental apparatus. M.W. and M.A.T. performed the experiments, with assistance from A.B.S. M.A.T. and W.P.B. wrote the paper with input from all co-authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michael A. Taylor.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nphoton.2015.160

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