Interferometry can completely redirect light, providing the potential for strong and controllable optical forces. However, small particles do not naturally act like interferometric beamsplitters, and the optical scattering from them is not generally thought to allow efficient interference. Instead, optical trapping is typically achieved via deflection of the incident field. Here we show that a suitably structured incident field can achieve beamsplitter like interactions with scattering particles. The resulting trap offers order-of-magnitude higher stiffness than the usual Gaussian trap in one axis, even when constrained to phase-only structuring. We demonstrate trapping of 3.5 to 10.0 μm silica spheres, achieving stiffness up to 27.5 ±4.1 times higher than is possible using Gaussian traps, and two orders of magnitude higher measurement signal-to-noise ratio. These results are highly relevant to many applications, including cellular manipulation1, 2, fluid dynamics3, 4, micro-robotics5 and tests of fundamental Physics 6.

© 2015 Optical Society of America

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