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Nanofibre optic force transducers with sub-piconewton resolution via near-field plasmon–dielectric interactions


Ultrasensitive nanomechanical instruments, including the atomic force microscope (AFM)1,2,3,4 and optical and magnetic tweezers5,6,7,8, have helped shed new light on the complex mechanical environments of biological processes. However, it is difficult to scale down the size of these instruments due to their feedback mechanisms9, which, if overcome, would enable high-density nanomechanical probing inside materials. A variety of molecular force probes including mechanophores10, quantum dots11, fluorescent pairs12,13 and molecular rotors14,15,16 have been designed to measure intracellular stresses; however, fluorescence-based techniques can have short operating times due to photo-instability and it is still challenging to quantify the forces with high spatial and mechanical resolution. Here, we develop a compact nanofibre optic force transducer (NOFT) that utilizes strong near-field plasmon–dielectric interactions to measure local forces with a sensitivity of <200 fN. The NOFT system is tested by monitoring bacterial motion and heart-cell beating as well as detecting infrasound power in solution.

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Figure 1: Nanofibre optic force transducer calibration.
Figure 2: Detection of bacterial motile force.
Figure 3: Acoustic frequency detection.


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The authors acknowledge X. Qu, W. Zhu, S. Ward and J. Friend for helpful discussions. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (ECCS 1150952) and the University of California, Office of the President (UC-LFRP 12-LR-238415). Grant support from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (grant no. RT3-07899) and the National Institutes of Health (grant no. R01EB021857) to S.C. was greatly appreciated. A part of this project was supported by the National Institute on Aging of National Institutes of Health (grant AG028709). This work was performed in part at the San Diego Nanotechnology Infrastructure (SDNI) of UCSD, a member of the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure, which is supported by the National Science Foundation (grant no. ECCS-1542148).

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Authors and Affiliations



Q.H., I.Y. and D.J.S. designed the project. Q.H., J.Lee and Y.S. fabricated samples and ran the optical experiments. I.Y. and F.T.A. built the AFM-optical system. J.Lee, F.T.A. and Q.H. ran the AFM experiments. P.A. and S.T. prepared the bacteria solution. J.Liu and X.M. prepared the cell samples. Q.H. and D.J.S. wrote the manuscript. J.Lee, F.T.A., J.V., S.C., L.Z. and R.L. helped edit and revise the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Donald J. Sirbuly.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Huang, Q., Lee, J., Arce, F. et al. Nanofibre optic force transducers with sub-piconewton resolution via near-field plasmon–dielectric interactions. Nature Photon 11, 352–355 (2017).

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