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Press Release 08-222

Nano "Tractor Beam" Traps DNA

Researchers use beams of light to grab and hold molecules

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Illustration of DNA molecules in a nanoscale channel getting trapped by light.

When DNA molecules suspended in a tiny stream of water flow through a nanoscale channel, they can be captured by a field of light if that light is confined in a device called a slot waveguide. The pressure from the light can then propel the DNA along the waveguide channel to bring the molecules to new locations. Such manipulation could prove valuable for assembling nanoscale structures, driving powerful sensors and developing a range of other technologies.

Credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation


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This video shows, at a slowed speed, DNA molecules suspended in a stream of water as they flow through a nanoscale channel. Some of the DNA gets captured by a field of light confined in a device called a slot waveguide. When the light is shut off, the DNA flows freely again.

Credit: Cornell University