Why Single-Beam Optical Tweezers Trap Gold Nanowires in Three Dimensions





Citation of Original Publication

Yan, Zijie, Matthew Pelton, Leonid Vigderman, Eugene R. Zubarev, and Norbert F. Scherer. “Why Single-Beam Optical Tweezers Trap Gold Nanowires in Three Dimensions.” ACS Nano 7, no. 10 (October 22, 2013): 8794–8800. https://doi.org/10.1021/nn403936z.


This work was written as part of one of the author's official duties as an Employee of the United States Government and is therefore a work of the United States Government. In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 105, no copyright protection is available for such works under U.S. Law.
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Understanding whether noble-metal nanostructures can be trapped optically and under what conditions will enable a range of applications that exploit their plasmonic properties. However, there are several nontrivial issues that first need to be resolved. A major one is that metal particles experience strong radiation pressure in optical beams, while stable optical trapping requires an attractive force greater than this radiation pressure. Therefore, it has generally been considered impossible to obtain sufficiently strong gradient forces using single-beam optical tweezers to trap relatively large metal nanostructures in three dimensions. Here we demonstrate that a single, tightly focused laser beam with a wavelength of 800 nm can achieve three-dimensional optical trapping of individual gold (Au) nanowires with lengths over 2 μm. Nanowires can be trapped by the beam at one of their ends, in which case they undergo significant angular fluctuations due to Brownian motion of the untrapped end. They can also be trapped close to their midpoints, in which case they are oriented approximately perpendicular to the light polarization direction. The behavior is markedly different from that of Ag nanowires with similar length and diameter, which cannot be trapped in three dimensions by a single focused Gaussian beam. Our results, including electrodynamics simulations that help to explain our experimental findings, suggest that the conventional wisdom, which holds that larger metal particles cannot be trapped, needs to be replaced with an understanding based on the details of plasmon resonances in the particles.