Assembling micro-components with laser tweezers

March 23, 2016
Working with optical tweezers is daily routine for PhD student Jannis Köhler. He uses the tool for testing the manipulation of rotatable microstructures. Credit: RUB, Damian Gorczany

A team of engineers headed by Prof Dr Cemal Esen from the Applied Laser Technologies lab at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum develop microscopic components and assemble them to larger objects with the aid of laser tweezers. They are thus establishing methods that one day may be utilised to manufacture machines in dimensions of a few micrometres. The group has successfully tested several fastening techniques. At present, the researchers are experimenting with doped materials which can be used for rendering objects magnetic or giving them electrically conductive properties.

Using , engineers from Bochum assemble microscopic components to larger structures. One day, this method may be used for building micro-robots.

The team headed by Prof Dr Cemal Esen from the Applied Laser Technologies lab at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) develops microscopic components that can be assembled with the aid of laser beams to form larger structures. The engineers are establishing methods which one day may be used for manufacturing structures and machines whose dimensions do not exceed a few micrometres.

Basis for sophisticated technology

In order to assemble components, the group utilises so-called , the arms of which are made up of strongly focused light. With its aid, they are able to manipulate objects in dimensions ranging between 0.5 and 20 micrometres. In future, this method could be used for manufacturing highly sophisticated technology. "It is conceivable that such modules could be used to build micro-robots," as engineer Sarah Ksouri describes one of the visions. "Such systems could be used for  minimal invasive surgery."

Reversible connections

The challenge is to design individual components that can be connected, but also disassembled, if required. To this end, the researchers take their cue from the large world. Sarah Ksouri has demonstrated that the technology can be used to connect microscopic jigsaw puzzles pieces that stick together because of their shape. RUB researcher Jannis Köhler assembled rotating structures with optical tweezers.

The researchers developed the components in their Bochum laboratory using two-photon polymerization technique, a type of micro 3D printer. All spots indicated by a computer model in a drop of photoresist are exposed to a laser beam. This is how the required solid object is created.

Combining methods

The team at the Applied Laser Technologies lab simultaneously researches a number of different principles for combining two-photon polymerisation and optical tweezers in a feasible manner. At present, additional experiments with doped materials are carried out. Those materials are enriched with nanoparticles from certain elements which lend the polymer structures a specific function, for example by giving them magnetic or electrically conducting properties. Two-photon polymerisation, optical tweezers and nano-doping – these are the methods the Bochum researchers hope to integrate in one device one day.

Explore further: Robotics goes micro-scale

Related Stories

Robotics goes micro-scale

April 17, 2014

( —The development of light-driven 'micro-robots' that can autonomously investigate and manipulate the nano-scale environment in a microscope comes a step closer, thanks to new research from the University of Bristol. ...

New technology for land mine detection

March 18, 2016

In Colombia, large areas are teeming with mines that are almost impossible to detect with traditional methods. In collaboration with partners from South America, engineers at the German Ruhr-Universität Bochum and Technical ...

Elucidating energy shifts in optical tweezers

May 8, 2013

A small piece of paper sticks to an electrically charged plastic ruler. The principle of this simple classroom physics experiment is applied at the microscopic scale by so-called optical tweezers to get the likes of polystyrene ...

Engineers adapt laser method to create micro energy units

March 21, 2016

In the race to design smaller handheld devices and smartphones, a key factor is decreasing the sizes of components. As the demand for thinner and lighter microelectronic devices increases, manufacturers often are limited ...

Recommended for you

Strain-free epitaxy of germanium film on mica

November 17, 2017

Germanium, an elemental semiconductor, was the material of choice in the early history of electronic devices, before it was largely replaced by silicon. But due to its high charge carrier mobility—higher than silicon by ...

Carefully crafted light pulses control neuron activity

November 17, 2017

Specially tailored, ultrafast pulses of light can trigger neurons to fire and could one day help patients with light-sensitive circadian or mood problems, according to a new study in mice at the University of Illinois.

New imaging technique peers inside living cells

November 16, 2017

To undergo high-resolution imaging, cells often must be sliced and diced, dehydrated, painted with toxic stains, or embedded in resin. For cells, the result is certain death.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Mar 23, 2016
Would make a kickass combo combined with the following printer:

New 3-D printer unlocks 'mind-blowing' possibilities with electronics manufacturing
March 23, 2016
"Optomec machine can print at 10 microns and also is not limited to copper or metallic inks."

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.