Scientists use optical tweezers -- light
beams that act like wind at very small scales -- to trap and manipulate
Researchers from Arryx, Inc. and New York University have demonstrated
that it is possible to trap and move carbon nanotubes with optical tweezers.
This is tricky because nanotubes' diameters are orders of magnitude smaller
than the wavelength of light used to move them. The researchers used a
wavelength of light that was strongly absorbed by the carbon nanotubes.
By strongly focusing the light, the researchers were able to trap the
Carbon nanotubes are rolled-up sheets of carbon atoms that can
be smaller than a single nanometer in diameter, and have useful optical,
electrical, chemical and mechanical properties. A nanometer is the span
of 10 hydrogen atoms.
The method could be used with holographic techniques to create
thousands of simultaneous optical traps for manipulating thousands of
single nanotubes or small bundles of nanotubes in parallel, according
to the researchers. The method could eventually be used to manufacture
tiny devices that contain nanotubes.
The researchers have showed that it is possible to pattern clusters
of nanotubes into configurations that are likely to have near-term applications
as chemical, biological and physical sensors.
The method could be used to assemble nanotube devices within two
years, according to the researchers. The work appeared in the May 3, 2004
issue of Optics Express.
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