We describe the application of infrared optical tweezers to the in situ microparticle analysis of marine phytoplankton cells. A Nd:YAG laser (λ = 1064 nm) trap is used to confine and manipulate single Nannochloris and Synechococcus cells in an enriched seawater medium while spectral fluorescence and Lorenz–Mie backscatter signals are simultaneously acquired under a variety of excitation and trapping conditions. Variations in the measured fluorescence intensities of chlorophyll a (Chl a) and phycoerythrin pigments in phytoplankton cells are observed. These variations are related, in part, to basic intrasample variability, but they also indicate that increasing ultraviolet-exposure time and infrared trapping power may have short-term effects on cellular physiology that are related to Chl a photobleaching and laser-induced heating, respectively. The use of optical tweezers to study the factors that affect marine cell physiology and the processes of absorption, scattering, and attenuation by individual cells, organisms, and particulate matter that contribute to optical closure on a microscopic scale are also described.
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