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Optical particle trap can be used to manipulate bacteria, viruses

A new type of optical particle trap can be used to manipulate bacteria, viruses and other particles on a chip as part of an integrated optofluidic platform. The optical trap is the latest innovation from researchers at the Jack Baskin School of Engineering at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who are developing new sensor technology for biomedical analysis and other applications.

"Ultimately, it could have applications for rapid detection of bacteria and viruses in hospitals, for cell sorting in research labs, and for process monitoring in chemical engineering," said Holger Schmidt, professor of electrical engineering and director of the W. M. Keck Center for Nanoscale Optofluidics at UCSC.

Optical traps and "optical tweezers" use the momentum carried by the photons in a beam of light to exert forces on microscopic objects, enabling researchers to manipulate objects ranging from biological molecules to living cells. Schmidt's group developed a new way to perform optical trapping on a chip-based platform.

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