Optical tweezers: light for manipulating microscopic world
Optical tweezers make use of a tightly focused laser beam to trap, move, guide, rotate and even sort microscopic objects solely with light. Although the basic laser tweezers, making use of a TEM00 laser beam to create a single trap point, have proved to be useful for any applications in areas ranging from physics to biology, a major breakthrough in this field came as the use of computer generated holograms enabled researchers to create multiple trap sites from single laser source (holographic optical tweezers). Coupled with microfluidic techniques, holographic optical tweezers have promised development of optical techniques for high throughput sorting of different cell types under a single micro-chip platform. The holographic methods have also helped the use of specialized laser beams like Laguerre-Gaussian beams instead of the conventional laser beam for interesting applications like orienting/rotating the trapped objects or trapping cells with minimum photodamage. Further, combining optical tweezers with Raman spectroscopy is becoming increasingly popular for studying single cell biochemistry as use of optical forces to immobilize the cells under investigations not only avoids the negative effects of fixing the cells onto substrate but also improve the quality of the recorded spectra. These advanced optical trapping techniques as outlined above along with some illustrative biophotonics applications have been explored.