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Manipulation, trapping, splitting and merging of water and aqueous bio-droplets by photovoltaic optoelectronic tweezers

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posted on 2023-11-30, 19:27 authored by Andrés Puerto, Angel Méndez, Luis Arizmendi, Angel García-Cabañes, Mercedes Carrascosa
Optical and optoelectronic techniques for micro- and nano-object manipulation are becoming essential tools in nano- and bio-technology. A remarkable optoelectronic technique that has experimented a strong development in the last few years is the so called photovoltaic optoelectronic tweezers. It is based on the light-induced electric fields generated by the bulk photovoltaic effect in certain ferroelectrics such as LiNbO3. The technique is simple and versatile, enabling a successful manipulation of a large variety of micro- and nano-objects with only optical control, without the need of electrodes or power supplies. However, it is still a challenge for this tool, to handle objects immersed in aqueous solution due to the electric screening effects of polar liquids. This has hindered their application in biotechnology and biomedicine where most processes develop in aqueous solution. In this work, a new efficient route to overcome this problem has been proposed and demonstrated. It uses photovoltaic optoelectronic tweezers to manipulate aqueous droplets, immersed in a non-polar oil liquid, but hanging at the interface air-oil. In this singular configuration, the high electric fields generated in the photovoltaic substrate allow a simple and flexible manipulation of aqueous droplets controlled by the light. Droplet guiding, trapping, merging and splitting have been achieved and efficient operation with water and a variety of bio-droplets (DNA, sperm, and PBS solutions) have been demonstrated. The reported results overcome a main limitation of these tweezers to handle bio-materials and promises a high potential for biotechnological and biochemistry applications including their implementation in optofluidic devices.



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