Friday, June 17, 2016

Continuous-feed optical sorting of aerosol particles

J. J. Curry and Zachary H. Levine

We consider the problem of sorting, by size, spherical particles of order 100 nm radius. The scheme we analyze consists of a heterogeneous stream of spherical particles flowing at an oblique angle across an optical Gaussian mode standing wave. Sorting is achieved by the combined spatial and size dependencies of the optical force. Particles of all sizes enter the flow at a point, but exit at different locations depending on size. Exiting particles may be detected optically or separated for further processing. The scheme has the advantages of accommodating a high throughput, producing a continuous stream of continuously dispersed particles, and exhibiting excellent size resolution. We performed detailed Monte Carlo simulations of particle trajectories through the optical field under the influence of convective air flow. We also developed a method for deriving effective velocities and diffusion constants from the Fokker-Planck equation that can generate equivalent results much more quickly. With an optical wavelength of 1064 nm, polystyrene particles with radii in the neighborhood of 275 nm, for which the optical force vanishes, may be sorted with a resolution below 1 nm.

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