Optical manipulation of micro-scale objects, optical tweezers (OT), have proven themselves as a powerful interdisciplinary tool. They have enabled fundamental research in physics, biology, and engineering e.g. in colloid studies, measuring the mechanical p roperties and behaviour of single biological molecules (DNA, proteins). The aim of this NEST proposal is to take optical trapping into a new dimension for the 21st century with novel, exciting and adventurous ideas that will advance the optical "toolkit" t o an unprecedented level. To realise the full impact of this technology some important, radical advances are necessary. The conventional OT technique offers little flexibility for tailoring the optical potential in 3-D space. We aim to develop a hierarchy of systems based on dynamic optical elements to achieve arbitrary 3D patterns for light traps and some of them will reach nanometre sized trapping volumes. This will open the way towards trapping and localising tiny biological samples like viruses and DNA directly which is not possible with the current techniques. Micro- and nano-scale manipulation of a plurality of arbitrarily shaped microstructures using multiple optical trapping-beams will bring exciting future applications across a range of science in m icrofluidics, advanced biology and colloid science. New forms of OT will give insights into Brownian dynamics, fractionation of colloidal and biological matter and even into molecular processes. A substantial amount of pioneering, high-risk, high-return wo rk has to be undertaken to truly bring this work to fruition. The consortium involves seven complementary groups covering relevant fields for the work proposed. They are ideally assembled to exploit this emergent technology in a number of key directions an d we have exactly the right complementary expertise to rapidly realise all the ideas put forward here. We aim to propel EU research in this field to a world leading position in a rapid space of time.
Call for proposal
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