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News

New high-tech tool maneuvers microscopic particles

National Science Foundation : 20 July, 2005  (Company News)
Researchers have invented so-called optoelectronic tweezers that can maneuver microscopic particles as small as living cells without damaging them. The tool uses optical energy from a low-intensity laser beam to create an electric field on a photoconductive glass slide. Similar to magnets sticking together or pushing apart according to their orientation, a particle inside the charged electric field is attracted or repelled depending on its own charge. Moving the laser beam moves the electric field, taking the object along with it.
Researchers have invented so-called optoelectronic tweezers that can maneuver microscopic particles as small as living cells without damaging them. The tool uses optical energy from a low-intensity laser beam to create an electric field on a photoconductive glass slide. Similar to magnets sticking together or pushing apart according to their orientation, a particle inside the charged electric field is attracted or repelled depending on its own charge. Moving the laser beam moves the electric field, taking the object along with it.

University of California, Berkeley professor, Ming Wu, together with graduate students Pei Yu Chiou and Aaron Ohta, describe the new device in the July 21 issue of the journal, Nature.

The light from the laser can be projected into a variety of shapes and sizes providing imaginative scientists with all sorts of possibilities for moving, sorting and trapping micron-sized objects. Wu has even developed an optical conveyor belt with individual compartments to transport particles.

Ohta, whose research and training is supported by the National Science Foundation, works closely with Chiou on this project. Together, they were graduate finalists in the 2004 Collegiate Inventors Competition. The international contest, sponsored by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, encourages students to actively practice science, engineering and mathematics for creative invention of patentable products.
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