Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Photonic wheels : for drag racing at nano scale

Optical tweezers will soon be more agile than ever before since light beams can now induce a rolling movement onto a nanoscale object, in addition to pushing it along a surface.

Optical tweezers and spanners are about to become more sophisticated. A group of physicists in Germany has just demonstrated, for the first time, the existence of a novel, transverse effect pertaining to light beams used for optical trapping, called photonic wheel.

Photonic wheels : for drag racing at nano scale

This means that scientists will now have full rotational control over the micro- or nanoscale objects trapped in the tweezers’ optical beam. Peter Banzer and colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, in Erlangen, Germany, just published their findings in the Journal of the European Optical Society Rapid Publications. The authors speculate that, under favourable low viscosity condition, this approach could lead to spinning a trapped particle that will then start moving like a spinning top, as soon as the trapping laser beam is switched off, thus creating the conditions for a nano drag race (see figure).

Due to their lack of mass, photons do not behave intuitively. Rather, they have characteristics of their own. They can be circularly polarised, for example. This means their electric field spins around the propagation axis—a characteristic described as angular momentum, which is parallel to the direction in which the photon travels. This longitudinal angular momentum is akin to that of aircraft propellers, aligned with the direction in which the aircraft travels.

Now, the authors have shown that photons can display purely transverse angular momentum, at a right angle to the direction in which they move. This is similar to the angular momentum of the spinning wheel of a bicycle, whereby the rotational axis is transverse to the direction of movement.

Banzer and colleagues first predicted the new capability theoretically. They then confirmed it through experimental work, using a highly focused light beam with a special polarisation. They used a single metallic nanoparticle to probe the beam in the focal plane. Since there is a measurable deformation of the beam shape in that plane, it proves the existence of a purely transverse angular momentum in the beam for the investigated scheme.

Combining this newly discovered photonic wheel with conventional beams gives full rotational control when manipulating particles. This opens the possibility of new applications such as nanomixers and micromachines in addition to application in quantum optics and nano-optics.

P. Banzer, M. Neugebauer, A. Aiello, C. Marquardt, N. Lindlein, T. Bauer and G. Leuchs, The photonic wheel - demonstration of a state of light with purely transverse angular momentum. J. Europ. Opt. Soc. Rap. Public. 8, 13032 (2013). [DOI:]
Weitere Informationen:

Dr. Sabine König | Max-Planck-Institut
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Scientists discover particles similar to Majorana fermions
25.10.2016 | Chinese Academy of Sciences Headquarters

nachricht Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>