Light-Based ‘Tractor Beam’ Assembles Materials At The Nanoscale

Researchers have developed a method that could make reproducible manufacturing at the nanoscale possible. The team adapted a light-based technology employed widely in biology — known as optical traps or optical tweezers — to operate in a water-free liquid environment of carbon-rich organic solvents, thereby enabling new potential applications.

The optical tweezers act as a light-based “tractor beam” that can assemble nanoscale semiconductor materials precisely into larger structures. Unlike the tractor beams of science fiction, which grab spaceships, the team employs the optical tweezers to trap materials that are nearly one billion times shorter than a meter.

This is a new approach to nanoscale manufacturing. There are no chamber surfaces involved in the manufacturing process, which minimizes the formation of strain or other defects. All of the components are suspended in solution, and we can control the size and shape of the nanostructure as it is assembled piece by piece.

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