The generalised phase contrast approach is used with a phase-only spatial light modulator for the generation of optical arrays of arbitrary beam shape, suitable for example, in applications in optical tweezers for the manipulation of biological specimens. This approach offers numerous advantages over current techniques involving the use of computer-generated holograms or diffractive optical elements. We demonstrate a low loss system for generating arbitrary intensity patterns suitable for the trapping and manipulation of small particles or specimens

© 2000 Optical Society of America

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