In their new Nature Communications paper entitled “Hypothermal Opto-Thermophoretic Tweezers” (HOTTs), Professor Yuebing Zheng and his students (Pavana Siddhartha Kollipara – leading author, Jingang Li, Zhihan Chen, Hongru Ding, Youngsun Kim, Suichu Huang) along with collaborators (Xiuying Li and Professor Zhenpeng Qi) have achieved low-power trapping of diverse colloids and biological cells in their native fluids.

HOTTs exploit an environmental cooling strategy to simultaneously enhance the thermophoretic trapping force at sub-ambient temperatures and suppress the thermal damage to target objects. Optical tweezers have profound importance across fields ranging from manufacturing to biotechnology. However, the requirement of refractive index contrast and high laser power results in potential photon and thermal damage to the trapped objects, such as nanoparticles and biological cells. Optothermal tweezers have been developed to trap particles and biological cells via opto-thermophoresis with much lower laser powers. However, the intense laser heating and stringent requirement of the solution environment prevent their use for general biological applications. The researchers further apply HOTTs to demonstrate the three-dimensional manipulation of functional plasmonic vesicles for controlled cargo delivery. With their noninvasiveness and versatile capabilities, HOTTs present a promising tool for fundamental studies and practical applications in materials science and biotechnology.

Feel free to check out their publication: