Haesung Park, Thomas W. LeBrun
We demonstrate a method to trap a selected dielectric microparticle in air using radiation pressure from a single-beam gradient optical trap. Randomly scattered dielectric microparticles adhered to a glass substrate are momentarily detached using ultrasonic vibrations generated by a piezoelectric transducer (PZT). Then, the optical beam focused on a selected particle lifts it up to the optical trap while the vibrationally excited microparticles fall back to the substrate. A particle may be trapped at the nominal focus of the trapping beam or at a position above the focus (referred to here as the levitation position) where gravity provides the restoring force. After the measurement, the trapped particle can be placed at a desired position on the substrate in a controlled manner.
In this protocol, an experimental procedure for selective optical trap loading in air is outlined. First, the experimental setup is briefly introduced. Second, the design and fabrication of a PZT holder and a sample enclosure are illustrated in detail. The optical trap loading of a selected microparticle is then demonstrated with step-by-step instructions including sample preparation, launching into the trap, and use of electrostatic force to excite particle motion in the trap and measure charge. Finally, we present recorded particle trajectories of Brownian and ballistic motions of a trapped microparticle in air. These trajectories can be used to measure stiffness or to verify optical alignment through time domain and frequency domain analysis. Selective trap loading enables optical tweezers to track a particle and its changes over repeated trap loadings in a reversible manner, thereby enabling studies of particle-surface interaction.