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Optical microscopes and tweezers can image and manipulate objects at the microscale for applications in cellular and molecular biology. The optical resolution is, however, hampered by the diffraction limit and therefore both microscopes and tweezers are unable to image and manipulate nano-objects directly. Emerging techniques in plasmonic/photonic nanoscopes and nanotweezers aim to achieve nanometer-scale resolution, although high-index material structures can easily cause mechanical and photothermal damage to the nanoscale biospecimens.
In a recent study now published on Light: Science & Applications, Yuchao Li and colleagues at the Institute of Nanophotonics in China, developed an optical microscope system using living cells as tiny lenses to image and manipulate objects smaller than the wavelength of light. They showed sub-diffraction-limit imaging and manipulation of nano-objects with a non-invasive device, which they constructed by trapping a cell on a fiber tip. The trapped cell formed a biomagnifier that could magnify nanostructures with a resolution of 100 nm, under white light microscopy. Using the biomagnifier, Li et al. formed a nano-optical trap to precisely manipulate an individual nanoparticle with a 50 nm radius. The technique provides a high-precision tool for optical imaging, sensing and assembly of bio-nanomaterials without mechanical or photothermal damage.
Imaging - Objects - Diagnosis - Sensing - Exploration
Optical imaging to manipulate small objects is crucial for medical diagnosis, biological sensing, cellular exploration, molecular training and materials assembly. Tweezers and microscopes are standard devices for noncontact imaging and manipulation of minute samples ranging from a few nanometers to several microns. Nevertheless, it is challenging to use the technology to image at the nanoscale, since optical resolution is restricted to approximately half the illumination wavelength.
Scientists have achieved dramatic progress of near-field nanoscopes and nanotweezers in the past few decades to achieve optical imaging at nanometer resolution. These imaging techniques were withheld by high-index inorganic materials such as noble metals and semiconductors used for their...
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