José A. Rodrigo & Tatiana Alieva
Laser traps provide contactless manipulation of plasmonic nanoparticles (NPs) boosting the development of numerous applications in science and technology. The known trapping configurations allow immobilizing and moving single NPs or assembling them, but they are not suitable for massive optical transport of NPs along arbitrary trajectories. Here, we address this challenging problem and demonstrate that it can be handled by exploiting phase gradients forces to both confine and propel the NPs. The developed optical manipulation tool allows for programmable transport routing of NPs to around, surround or impact on objects in the host environment. An additional advantage is that the proposed confinement mechanism works for off-resonant but also resonant NPs paving the way for transport with simultaneous heating, which is of interest for targeted drug delivery and nanolithography. These findings are highly relevant to many technological applications including micro/nano-fabrication, micro-robotics and biomedicine.