Scientists from the United States have presented the first optical tweezers that can move tiny particles even in a vacuum. The researchers want to make this system portable.
Researchers have created tiny, chip-based optical tweezers that can be used to levitate nanoparticles in a vacuum. Optical tweezers use a tightly focused laser beam to trap living cells, nanoparticles, and other objects. Typically these devices are manufactured with bulky optical components.
Using an ultra-thin lens, they reduced the diameter of the device from 25 mm to 0.4 mm. “The chip design can be used to create an integrated and flexible optical system for studying near-surface forces. This is done by capturing an object less than 1 micrometer from the surface. It can also be useful for trapping cold atoms in a vacuum to study quantum processes, â€�the scientists noted.
In the Optica Publishing Group, a journal of high-performance research, researchers from Purdue University and Pennsylvania State University reported the first implementation of optical levitation in a vacuum using an ultra-thin device.
“Optically levitating particles can be used to create accelerometers and gyroscopes that can potentially be used for navigation,” the researchers noted. “Scientists are also using optically levitating particles to search for dark matter and dark energy and study gravity at short distances, which will deepen our understanding of the nature of these phenomena.”
“As a next step, we want to make optical levitation technology more practical by minimizing the system enough to be portable. We started by reducing the size of the focusing lens by using metallics – a type of flat lens that uses nanostructures to focus light,â€� they added.