Viscosity is an important property of out-of-equilibrium systems such as active biological materials and driven non-Newtonian fluids, and for fields ranging from biomaterials to geology, energy technologies and medicine. Non-invasive viscosity measurements typically require integration times of seconds. Here, we demonstrate measurement speeds reaching 20 μs, with uncertainty dominated by thermal molecular collisions for the first time. We achieve this using the instantaneous velocity of a trapped particle in an optical tweezer. To resolve the instantaneous velocity we develop a structured-light detection system that allows particle tracking over femtometre length scales and 16-ns timescales. Our results translate viscosity from a static averaged property to one that may be dynamically tracked on the timescales of active dynamics. This opens a pathway to new discoveries in out-of-equilibrium systems, from the fast dynamics of phase transitions to energy dissipation in motor molecule stepping and to violations of fluctuation laws of equilibrium thermodynamics.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution
Access Nature and 54 other Nature Portfolio journals
Get Nature+, our best-value online-access subscription
$29.99 / 30 days
cancel any time
Subscribe to this journal
Receive 12 print issues and online access
$209.00 per year
only $17.42 per issue
Rent or buy this article
Prices vary by article type
Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout
Supplementary Information is available for this paper. Further data that supports the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.
The code used to estimate viscosity from the measured power spectral densities is available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.
Ashkin, A. History of optical trapping and manipulation of small-neutral particle, atoms and molecules. IEEE J. Select. Topics Quantum Electron. 6, 841–856 (2000).
Carney, S. P. et al. Direct measurement of stepping dynamics of E. coli UvrD helicase. Biophys. J. 118, 71a (2020).
Nishizawa, K. et al. Feedback-tracking microrheology in living cells. Sci. Adv. 3, e1700318 (2017).
Killian, J. L., Ye, F. & Wang, M. D. Optical tweezers: a force to be reckoned with. Cell 175, 1445–1448 (2018).
Tassieri, M. Microrheology with optical tweezers: peaks & troughs. Curr. Opin. Colloid Interface Sci. 43, 39–51 (2019).
Grimm, M., Franosch, T. & Jeney, S. High-resolution detection of Brownian motion for quantitative optical tweezers experiments. Phys. Rev. E 86, 021912 (2012).
Kheifets, S., Simha, A., Melin, K., Li, T. & Raizen, M. G. Observation of Brownian motion in liquids at short times: instantaneous velocity and memory loss. Science 343, 1493–1496 (2014).
Gnesotto, F., Mura, F., Gladrow, J. & Broedersz, C. Broken detailed balance and non-equilibrium dynamics in living systems: a review. Rep. Prog. Phys. 81, 066601 (2018).
Dogterom, M. & Koenderink, G. H. Actin–microtubule crosstalk in cell biology. Nat. Rev. Mol. Cell Biol. 20, 38–54 (2019).
Rathee, V., Blair, D. L. & Urbach, J. S. Localized stress fluctuations drive shear thickening in dense suspensions. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. 114, 8740–8745 (2017).
Waitukaitis, S. R. & Jaeger, H. M. Impact-activated solidification of dense suspensions via dynamic jamming fronts. Nature 487, 205–209 (2012).
Han, E., Peters, I. R. & Jaeger, H. M. High-speed ultrasound imaging in dense suspensions reveals impact-activated solidification due to dynamic shear jamming. Nat. Commun. 7, 12243 (2016).
Saint-Michel, B., Gibaud, T. & Manneville, S. Uncovering instabilities in the spatiotemporal dynamics of a shear-thickening cornstarch suspension. Phys. Rev. X 8, 031006 (2018).
Capitanio, M. et al. Ultrafast force-clamp spectroscopy of single molecules reveals load dependence of myosin working stroke. Nat. Methods 9, 1013–1019 (2012).
Tassieri, M. Linear microrheology with optical tweezers of living cells ‘is not an option’! Soft Matter 11, 5792–5798 (2015).
Ariga, T., Tomishige, M. & Mizuno, D. Nonequilibrium energetics of molecular motor kinesin. Phys. Rev. Lett. 121, 218101 (2018).
Battle, C. et al. Broken detailed balance at mesoscopic scales in active biological systems. Science 352, 604–607 (2016).
Oyama, N., Kawasaki, T., Mizuno, H. & Ikeda, A. Glassy dynamics of a model of bacterial cytoplasm with metabolic activities. Phys. Rev. Res. 1, 032038 (2019).
Nishizawa, K. et al. Universal glass-forming behavior of in vitro and living cytoplasm. Sci. Rep. 7, 15143 (2017).
Grob, M., Zippelius, A. & Heussinger, C. Rheological chaos of frictional grains. Phys. Rev. E 93, 030901 (2016).
Jünger, F. et al. Measuring local viscosities near plasma membranes of living cells with photonic force microscopy. Biophys. J. 109, 869–882 (2015).
Chavez, I., Huang, R., Henderson, K., Florin, E.-L. & Raizen, M. G. Development of a fast position-sensitive laser beam detector. Rev. Sci. Instrum. 79, 105104 (2008).
Pralle, A., Florin, E.-L., Stelzer, E. & Hörber, J. Local viscosity probed by photonic force microscopy. Appl. Phys. A 66, S71–S73 (1998).
Tolić-Nørrelykke, S. F. et al. Calibration of optical tweezers with positional detection in the back focal plane. Rev. Sci. Instrum. 77, 103101 (2006).
Bishop, A. I., Nieminen, T. A., Heckenberg, N. R. & Rubinsztein-Dunlop, H. Optical microrheology using rotating laser-trapped particles. Phys. Rev. Lett. 92, 198104 (2004).
Guzmán, C. et al. In situ viscometry by optical trapping interferometry. Appl. Phys. Lett. 93, 184102 (2008).
Lukić, B. et al. Direct observation of nondiffusive motion of a Brownian particle. Phys. Rev. Lett. 95, 160601 (2005).
Rouan, D., Riaud, P., Boccaletti, A., Clénet, Y. & Labeyrie, A. The four-quadrant phase-mask coronagraph. I. Principle. Publ. Astron. Soc. Pacific 112, 1479–1486 (2000).
Jia, S., Vaughan, J. C. & Zhuang, X. Isotropic three-dimensional super-resolution imaging with a self-bending point spread function. Nat. Photon. 8, 302–306 (2014).
Shechtman, Y., Weiss, L. E., Backer, A. S., Lee, M. Y. & Moerner, W. Multicolour localization microscopy by point-spread-function engineering. Nat. Photon. 10, 590–594 (2016).
Treps, N. et al. A quantum laser pointer. Science 301, 940–943 (2003).
Taylor, M. A. et al. Biological measurement beyond the quantum limit. Nat. Photon. 7, 229–233 (2013).
Meers, B. J. Recycling in laser-interferometric gravitational-wave detectors. Phys. Rev. D 38, 2317–2326 (1988).
Huang, R. et al. Direct observation of the full transition from ballistic to diffusive Brownian motion in a liquid. Nat. Phys. 7, 576–580 (2011).
Berg-Sørensen, K. & Flyvbjerg, H. Power spectrum analysis for optical tweezers. Rev. Sci. Instrum. 75, 594–612 (2004).
Viswanath, D. S., Ghosh, T. K., Prasad, D. H., Dutt, N. V. & Rani, K. Y. Viscosity of Liquids: Theory, Estimation, Experiment and Data (Springer Science & Business Media, 2007).
Peterman, E. J., Gittes, F. & Schmidt, C. F. Laser-induced heating in optical traps. Biophys. J. 84, 1308–1316 (2003).
Hammond, A. P. & Corwin, E. I. Direct measurement of the ballistic motion of a freely floating colloid in Newtonian and viscoelastic fluids. Phys. Rev. E 96, 042606 (2017).
Milovanovic, D., Wu, Y., Bian, X. & De Camilli, P. A liquid phase of synapsin and lipid vesicles. Science 361, 604–607 (2018).
Parry, B. R. et al. The bacterial cytoplasm has glass-like properties and is fluidized by metabolic activity. Cell 156, 183–194 (2014).
Chacko, R. N., Mari, R., Cates, M. E. & Fielding, S. M. Dynamic vorticity banding in discontinuously shear thickening suspensions. Phys. Rev. Lett. 121, 108003 (2018).
Doostmohammadi, A., Shendruk, T. N., Thijssen, K. & Yeomans, J. M. Onset of meso-scale turbulence in active nematics. Nat. Commun. 8, 15326 (2017).
Arbore, C., Perego, L., Sergides, M. & Capitanio, M. Probing force in living cells with optical tweezers: from single-molecule mechanics to cell mechanotransduction. Biophys. Rev. 11, 765–782 (2019).
Rohrbach, A., Meyer, T., Stelzer, E. H. & Kress, H. Measuring stepwise binding of thermally fluctuating particles to cell membranes without fluorescence. Biophys. J. 118, 1850–1860 (2020).
Comtet, J. et al. Pairwise frictional profile between particles determines discontinuous shear thickening transition in non-colloidal suspensions. Nat. Commun. 8, 15633 (2017).
Geiß, D. & Kroy, K. Brownian thermometry beyond equilibrium. ChemSystemsChem 2, e1900041 (2020).
Brown, E. & Jaeger, H. M. Shear thickening in concentrated suspensions: phenomenology, mechanisms and relations to jamming. Rep. Prog. Phys. 77, 046602 (2014).
Joly, L., Merabia, S. & Barrat, J.-L. Effective temperatures of a heated Brownian particle. Europhys. Lett. 94, 50007 (2011).
Sanchez, T., Chen, D. T., DeCamp, S. J., Heymann, M. & Dogic, Z. Spontaneous motion in hierarchically assembled active matter. Nature 491, 431–434 (2012).
Ovarlez, G. et al. Density waves in shear-thickening suspensions. Sci. Adv. 6, eaay5589 (2020).
Doostmohammadi, A., Adamer, M. F., Thampi, S. P. & Yeomans, J. M. Stabilization of active matter by flow-vortex lattices and defect ordering. Nat. Commun. 7, 10557 (2016).
Vliegenthart, G. A., Ravichandran, A., Ripoll, M., Auth, T. & Gompper, G. Filamentous active matter: band formation, bending, buckling and defects. Sci. Adv. 6, eaaw9975 (2020).
Jünger, F. & Rohrbach, A. Strong cytoskeleton activity on millisecond timescales upon particle binding revealed by ROCS microscopy. Cytoskeleton 75, 410–424 (2018).
Ghosh, P. K. et al. Membrane microviscosity regulates endothelial cell motility. Nat. Cell Biol. 4, 894–900 (2002).
Sani, E. & Dell’Oro, A. Spectral optical constants of ethanol and isopropanol from ultraviolet to far infrared. Opt. Mater. 60, 137–141 (2016).
We thank P.K. Lam for providing the split-waveplate used to implement structured detection and N. Mauranyapin for taking scanning electron microscope images of the microparticles. We also thank N. Mauranyapin for useful discussions, along with H. Rubinsztein-Dunlop and I. Lenton. This work was supported primarily by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) grant no. FA2386-14-1-4046. It was also supported by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS, CE170100009). W.P.B. acknowledges support from the Australian Research Council Future Fellowship FT140100650. M.A.T. acknowledges support from the Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Research Award DE190100641.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature Photonics thanks Donald Sirbuly and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
a, Position trajectory of a 0.59 μm radius silica microsphere in water taken with conventional split-detection over a time spanning 10τt. b, High resolution trajectory taken simultaneously with structured-light detection, shown here over a time of 10τi. c, Particle velocity calculated from the data in b. Error bars: one-sigma uncertainty due to laser noise obtained from simulations. d, Velocity autocorrelation function calculated from data in c, (blue points) compared to theory (grey line). Note: the oscillations are an artefact arising from highpass filtering. e & f, Position and velocity power spectral densities, calculated as described in Section 1 of the Supplementary Information. The low frequency components (red traces) were obtained with split-detection, and the high frequency components (blue traces) were obtained with structured-light detection. Grey shading: theoretically predicted power spectra from thermal motion alone. Blue shading: noise floor of structured-light detection. Dashed line: 1/2πτt. Dot-dashed line: 1/2πτ.
About this article
Cite this article
Madsen, L.S., Waleed, M., Casacio, C.A. et al. Ultrafast viscosity measurement with ballistic optical tweezers. Nat. Photonics 15, 386–392 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41566-021-00798-8
This article is cited by
A bionic approach for the mechanical and electrical decoupling of an MEMS capacitive sensor in ultralow force measurement
Frontiers of Mechanical Engineering (2023)