August 31, 2009
Acoustic tweezers can move tiny objects
U.S. scientists say they've developed a system that uses sound as tiny tweezers to manipulate objects such as single cells or nanosized beads.
Current methods for moving individual cells or tiny beads include such devices as optical tweezers, which require a lot of energy and could damage or even kill live cells, said Penn State Assistant Professor Tony Jun Huang.
Acoustic tweezers are much smaller than optical tweezers and use 500,000 times less energy.
While optical tweezers are large and expensive, Huang said acoustic tweezers are smaller than a dime, small enough to fabricate on a chip using standard chip manufacturing techniques. They can also manipulate live cells without damaging or killing them.
Acoustic tweezers are not just useful in biology, he said.
They can be used in physics, chemistry and materials science to create patterns of nanoparticles for coatings or to etch surfaces.
The study that included Jinjie Shi, Daniel Ahmed, Sz-Chin Steven Lin, Xiaole Mao and Aitan Lawit appeared in a recent issue of the journal Lab on a Chip.