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Harmonic acoustics for dynamic and selective particle manipulation


Precise and selective manipulation of colloids and biological cells has long been motivated by applications in materials science, physics and the life sciences. Here we introduce our harmonic acoustics for a non-contact, dynamic, selective (HANDS) particle manipulation platform, which enables the reversible assembly of colloidal crystals or cells via the modulation of acoustic trapping positions with subwavelength resolution. We compose Fourier-synthesized harmonic waves to create soft acoustic lattices and colloidal crystals without using surface treatment or modifying their material properties. We have achieved active control of the lattice constant to dynamically modulate the interparticle distance in a high-throughput (>100 pairs), precise, selective and reversible manner. Furthermore, we apply this HANDS platform to quantify the intercellular adhesion forces among various cancer cell lines. Our biocompatible HANDS platform provides a highly versatile particle manipulation method that can handle soft matter and measure the interaction forces between living cells with high sensitivity.

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Fig. 1: Fourier synthesis of harmonic acoustic waves of HANDS to create soft flexible lattices for colloidal crystals or cell–cell pairing and separation.
Fig. 2: Creation of colloid crystal monolayers with cluster and spin dynamics studies via HANDS manipulation.
Fig. 3: HANDS for manipulation of soft matter and living cells for precision quantitative measurements.
Fig. 4: Reversible cell–cell pairings via HANDS for the quantification of intercellular adhesion strength in different cell lines.

Data availability

All the data supporting the findings of this study are available in the article and its Supplementary Information. Further information is available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Code availability

The acoustic wave simulations were performed with commercial software MATLAB. Computation details can be made available from the corresponding authors on request.


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We acknowledge support from the Shared Materials Instrumentation Facility at Duke University. We thank S. Suresh, M. Dao, Z. Mao and J. Rich for their critical feedback and helpful discussions. We acknowledge support from the National Institutes of Health (grant numbers R01GM141055 (T.J.H.), R01GM132603 (T.J.H.), U18TR003778 (T.J.H.) and UH3TR002978 (T.J.H.)) and the National Science Foundation (grant numbers ECCS-1807601 (T.J.H.) and CMMI-2104295 (T.J.H.)).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



S.Y. conceived the idea. S.Y., Z.T., P.L., L.P.L. and T.J.H. designed the research. S.Y. performed the research. Z.W. performed the western blot analysis. S.Y., J.X. and C.C. did the simulation. S.Y., Z.W., Z.T., H.B., C.C., P.L., P.-H.H., M.W., L.P.L. and T.J.H. analysed data. S.Y., P.-H.H., H.B., Z.T. and L.P.L. drew the figures. S.Y., Z.T., Z.W., H.B., P.L., P.-H.H., J.R., J.M., L.P.L. and T.J.H. wrote the paper. S.Y., Z.T., J.R., H.B., P.L., J.M., L.P.L. and T.J.H. revised the paper.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Luke P. Lee or Tony Jun Huang.

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Competing interests

T.J.H. has cofounded a start-up company, Ascent Bio-Nano Technologies Inc., to commercialize technologies involving acoustofluidics and acoustic tweezers. The remaining authors declare no competing interests.

Peer review

Peer review information

Nature Materials thanks Hubert Krenner, Adrian Neild and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Notes 1–8, Figs. 1–6 and Table 1.

Supplementary Video 1

Selective and reversible pairing of two cells (U937) by the HANDS platform while keeping neighbouring cells intact.

Supplementary Video 2

Creation of colloidal crystal from a cluster by the HANDS platform.

Supplementary Video 3

Controls of rotational direction and spinning of a colloidal crystal monolayer by the HANDS platform.

Supplementary Video 4

Different crystal configurations of colloidal monolayers with varied spin speeds (with particle number n = 6) by the HANDS platform.

Supplementary Video 5

Reconfiguration of acoustic wells for single-colloid trapping and pairing by the HANDS platform: connected acoustic wells and isolated acoustic wells.

Supplementary Video 6

Demonstration of the repeatable and reversible pairing of single particles by the HANDS platform.

Supplementary Video 7

High-throughput pairing for colloidal particles and cells by the HANDS platform.

Supplementary Video 8

Reversible pairing of living cells (U937) in the x and y directions by the HANDS platform.

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Yang, S., Tian, Z., Wang, Z. et al. Harmonic acoustics for dynamic and selective particle manipulation. Nat. Mater. 21, 540–546 (2022).

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