This Is How Scientists Created Tiny Tweezers To Build Nanotechnology Machines

Photo: Getty

How would an elephant pick up a fine needle with its two tree trunk-sized front legs?

That’s the problem in nanotechnology. Everything is so small and we’re so big.

Researchers have for the first time manipulated a single polystyrene bead, 1,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.

They used optical fibre to create a tiny set of nano-tweezers which move the nano particle using light.

This approach is expected to open new horizons in nanosciences by offering an unprecedented level of control of nanosized objects, including heat-sensitive biospecimens.

Romain Quidant, leader of the Plasmon Nano-Optics research group at ICFO-the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Spain, said:

“This technique could revolutionise the field of nanoscience since, for the first time, we have shown that it is possible to trap, 3D manipulate and release a single nano-object without exerting any mechanical contact or other invasive action.”

The image on the left is an electron beam microscopy image of the extremity of the plasmon nano-tweezers. The image on the right is a sketch illustrating the trapping of a nanoparticle in the bowtie aperture. Photo: Institute of Photonic Sciences

A few years ago, ICFO researchers demonstrated that a small specimen can be trapped by focusing light. This proof of concept was limited to demonstrate the mechanism but did not enable 3D manipulation needed for practical applications.

Now researchers at ICFO have taken this a crucial step further by using plasmonic nano-tweezers at the extremity of optical fibre, nano-engineered with a bowtie-like gold aperture.

Central to the great potential of this technique is that both trapping and monitoring of the trapped specimen can be done through the optical fibre.

This technique is potentially attractive in the field of medicine as a tool to further understand the biological mechanisms behind the development of diseases.

It also holds promise to assemble future miniature devices.

The tweezer breakthrough was announced in an article, Three-dimensional manipulation with scanning near-field optical nanotweezers, published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

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