Microfabricated, Chip-Based, Low-Power Optical Tweezers

Summary Since they were first demonstrated over twenty years ago, optical tweezers have been widely used for the manipulation and measurement of many microscale particles, particularly in the biological sciences. However, many of these systems require large, high-powered laser systems along with bulky and expensive optical objectives. With growing interest in microfluidics and other chip-based systems for high-throughput biological studies, a compact and integrated optical tweezer would be highly useful for isolating, measuring, and sorting small structures.

Applications Based on pioneering work in high-intensity, near-field laser structures, the Crozier lab has developed two optical tweezers technologies that operate below the traditional diffraction limit, one using nanoscale optical antennas and the other using microfabricated Fresnel zone plates. While traditional optical tweezers can require a laboratory bench full of expensive optical equipment, these technologies miniaturize optical tweezers and produce them using standard microelectronic fabrication procedures. The compact size and design correlates to a reduction of the necessary optical power by 2-3 orders of magnitude, allowing large and expensive Watt class lasers to be replaced with miniature semiconductor laser diodes operating at milliwatt powers. This lower power operation also dramatically reduces the amount of specimen heating, making the technology safer for use with sensitive biological samples. The small spot sizes allow for trapping of extremely small specimens such as viruses and bacteria, in addition to larger cellular samples.

Additionally, these new technologies replace bulky and expensive optical objectives with compact microfabricated structures. These chip-based focusing elements can be fabricated in large arrays of thousands of optical tweezers, allowing for complex and highly parallel study and measurement of biological systems. There are a wide variety of applications of this technology in microfluidic and other lab-on-a-chip systems, atomic force microscopy, nano-assembly, and patch-clamp analysis.

Additional Information: Ethan Schonbrun, Charles Rinzler, and Kenneth B. Crozier. “Microfabricated water immersion zone plate optical tweezer” Appl. Phys. Lett. 92, 071112 (2008) For Further Information Please Contact the Director of Business Development Alan Gordon Email: alan_gordon@harvard.edu Telephone: (617) 384-5000

Inventor(s): Crozier, Kenneth

Type of Offer: Licensing

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