What is Nanomanipulation?

In Richard Feynman’s famous “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom” lecture, his conceptualization of “swallowing the doctor” suggested a vision of precise control over nanoscale objects. Accurate positional control of nanoscale objects has broad implications for basic research, particularly biological research, and will revolutionize bottom-up nanoassembly, having an immense impact on nanomanufacturing and the performance enhancement of certain nanoscale devices. As a potential solution to this area of need, plasmonic metamaterials are an attractive option, given these synthetic materials can control electromagnetic dispersion on both the nano and mesoscale. The associated plasmonic field of a plasmonic metamaterial system can be designed to precisely confine or “trap” objects with dimensions in the Rayleigh regime while simultaneously guiding objects via propagating surface plasmon polaritons. This phenomenon establishes plasmonic metamaterials as a viable solution for label-free, non-contact, super-resolution nanomanipulation and assembly processes. In this area of our research, we are interested in advancing the science of these interesting materials, their applications, and the understanding of their polariton dynamics.

Why Study Nanomanipulation?

Traditional optical tweezers have been explored for their use in micromanipulation, however suffer when applied to objects on the nanoscale. This is primarily due to diffraction-limited focusing, and in environments dominated by Brownian motion (1-10 kBT), they are at an additional disadvantage. The nano and mesoscale geometries of metallic metamaterials can be engineered to intensify and sculpt static (localized plasmon) and dynamic (propagating polariton) plasmonic field topographies, or landscapes; with a possible magnification of at least 100x the diffraction limit of the incident light at landscape hotspots. These topographies support spatially- and time-varying plasmonic forces with magnitudes in the piconewton and nanonewton range. These forces allow us to investigate the pushing and pulling of objects on the nanoscale.

Related Publications

Terranova, B. and Fontecchio, A., Polaritonic metamaterial for super-resolution trapping and sensing, IEEE Xplore Conference Proceedings (2013) In press