Nav: Home

New discovery improves use of optical tweezers

December 13, 2018

This year's Nobel Prize in Physics, awarded for discoveries in laser physics, recognizes optical tweezers. Now researchers from the University of Gothenburg have developed a method that greatly simplifies and improves the use of optical tweezers.

"The idea came to me during a visit to the National Autonomous University of Mexico last year. It turned out that the lab there already had all the data needed to prove that this new method worked," says Giovanni Volpe, a senior lecturer at the Department of Physics, University of Gothenburg.

Optical tweezers were discovered in the late 1980s. They can be described as light beam fingers that can take hold of particles, atoms, molecules and even bacteria and other living cells. The technique consists of an optical laser with the ability to hold onto a single cell, for example, without damaging it. This makes it possible to make very precise measurements.

Improving methods of measurement

The challenge in using optical tweezers has been the need to calibrate the optical laser exactly. Researchers using optical tweezers need to know exactly what they want to look at, and in what way, to make the precise settings required before the measurements begin.

With the new discovery currently being published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Communications, the technique will now be considerably easier to use.

"We have managed to develop a method of measurement that is more accurate, but that uses 10 times less data and is 100 times faster than the methods currently available," says Giovanni Volpe. "The method is completely automated and does not require any pre-set parameters to work."

Can be used in the pharmaceutical industry

With this method, optical tweezers can now be moved out of the physics laboratory and be used in pharmaceutical research.

"Personally, what I find most exciting about the new method is the possibility of studying systems that are not in equilibrium, systems that are in flux," says Volpe. "We will be able to measure phenomena we knew about before but have not been able to see."

According to the researchers, optical tweezers can now be used in biological applications to measure extremely small forces. The method also makes it possible to analyse what are known as extended force fields.

Laura Perez Garcia, who is listed as the lead author in the Nature Communications article, has now joined the Department of Physics at the University of Gothenburg as a doctoral student.

"I am proud to announce this discovery. The results are due to good international cooperation, which has also led me to move to Gothenburg and become part of Giovanni Volpe's research team," says Perez Garcia.

Facts: optical tweezers

The tool was invented by Arthur Ashkin and represents a realisation of his science fiction dream - to use the force field of light to move physical objects. When Arthur Ashkin successfully used laser light to push small particles towards the midpoint of the beam and keep them there, optical tweezers were born. A major breakthrough came in 1987, when Ashkin captured live bacteria with the tweezers without damaging them. He immediately began using the tweezers to study biological systems. Today optical tweezers are widely used within the research community.
-end-
Contact: Giovanni Volpe, Department of Physics at the University of Gothenburg, telephone: +46 (0)31-786 91 37, mobile: +46 (0)70 996 61 81, e-mail: giovanni.volpe@physics.gu.se

Name of the article: High-Performance Reconstruction of Microscopic Force Fields from Brownian Trajectories

Link: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-07437-x

University of Gothenburg

Related Physics Articles:

Diamonds coupled using quantum physics
Researchers at TU Wien have succeeded in coupling the specific defects in two such diamonds with one another.
The physics of wealth inequality
A Duke engineering professor has proposed an explanation for why the income disparity in America between the rich and poor continues to grow.
Physics can predict wealth inequality
The 2016 election year highlighted the growing problem of wealth inequality and finding ways to help the people who are falling behind.
Physics: Toward a practical nuclear pendulum
Researchers from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) Munich have, for the first time, measured the lifetime of an excited state in the nucleus of an unstable element.
Flowers use physics to attract pollinators
A new review indicates that flowers may be able to manipulate the laws of physics, by playing with light, using mechanical tricks, and harnessing electrostatic forces to attract pollinators.
Physics, photosynthesis and solar cells
A University of California, Riverside assistant professor has combined photosynthesis and physics to make a key discovery that could help make solar cells more efficient.
2-D physics
Physicist Andrea Young receives a 2016 Packard Fellowship to pursue his studies of van der Waals heterostructures.
Cats seem to grasp the laws of physics
Cats understand the principle of cause and effect as well as some elements of physics.
Plasma physics' giant leap
For the first time, scientists are looking at real data -- not computer models, but direct observation -- about what is happening in the fascinating region where the Earth's magnetic field breaks and then joins with the interplanetary magnetic field.
Nuclear physics' interdisciplinary progress
The theoretical view of the structure of the atom nucleus is not carved in stone.

Related Physics Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Crisis
There's no greater threat to humanity than climate change. What can we do to stop the worst consequences? This hour, TED speakers explore how we can save our planet and whether we can do it in time. Guests include climate activist Greta Thunberg, chemical engineer Jennifer Wilcox, research scientist Sean Davis, food innovator Bruce Friedrich, and psychologist Per Espen Stoknes.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#527 Honey I CRISPR'd the Kids
This week we're coming to you from Awesome Con in Washington, D.C. There, host Bethany Brookshire led a panel of three amazing guests to talk about the promise and perils of CRISPR, and what happens now that CRISPR babies have (maybe?) been born. Featuring science writer Tina Saey, molecular biologist Anne Simon, and bioethicist Alan Regenberg. A Nobel Prize winner argues banning CRISPR babies won’t work Geneticists push for a 5-year global ban on gene-edited babies A CRISPR spin-off causes unintended typos in DNA News of the first gene-edited babies ignited a firestorm The researcher who created CRISPR twins defends...