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Optical Tweezers: There’s an App for That

Photonics.com
Mar 2011
LONDON, March 9, 2011 — A software application that allows for accurate and intuitive use of optical tweezers on the Apple iPad's user interface is now available.


Optical tweezers on an iPad. (Photo: University of Glasgow)

Dubbed iTweezers, Apple CEO Steve Jobs calls it “a truly magical and revolutionary device.” The iPad’s multitouch interface is key to the application’s ability to move and control multiple nanoscale objects simultaneously.

Optical tweezers, used to manipulate tiny particles through the use of highly focused laser beams, are the tool at the heart of many molecular biology applications, helping to experiment with and better understand the microscopic processes of organisms.

Control of the lasers used in optical tweezer systems, however, often has been limited by the functionality of the computer mouse or joystick, making it difficult for researchers to manipulate multiparticles.

Research published in the Journal of Optics shows how a team from the universities of Bristol and Glasgow overcame those limitations through the design of an iPad application software.


The new multitouch-based application allows researchers a clear 3-D view of particle systems and offers a range of techniques, including pinching the screen or tilting the iPad to move single particles and multiparticles left, right, up or down, or to rotate them.

Because of the iPad's wireless capability, the app also will help with regard to laser safety and experiment contamination.

"Our iPad-based interface allows intuitive control of a holographic optical tweezers system using a dedicated application on the iPad and a modified version of our tweezers' control software running on a host PC. The interface is responsive and easy to use, so even inexperienced users can trap particles, move them around and translate the microscope stage," the researchers said in a statement. 

The work was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council through its Basic Technology Program.

For more information, visit:  www.iop.org 



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