Longevity Briefs: New Optical Tweezers allow the Manipulation of Biological Nanoparticles

Posted on 14 September 2020

Longevity briefs provides a short summary of a novel research, medicine, or technology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.

Why is this research important: Optical tweezers are scientific tools using highly focused laser beams to manipulate a variety of microscopic objects including living organisms such as viruses and individual cells. However, optical tweezers have trouble when it comes to moving items that are below 10 nanometers in size due to the intensity of the light damaging the biological specimen.

What did the researchers do: A research team at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, set out to overcome this hurdle and engineer optical tweezers which have the ability to manipulate biological objects smaller than 10 nanometres. By shining the laser beam through a gold film which tiny holes into a chamber of fluid, the team were able to create an electric field creating a countercurrent flow within the fluid with trapped a 7 nanometres protein. They were able to move the protein by shifting the position of the laser beam.

Key takeaway(s) from this research: The researchers dubbed the new tool opto-thermo-electrohydrodynamic tweezers, and are expecting it to open up new avenues in nanoscience by offering an unrivalled level of control over sensitive biological particles.

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