Abstract

Gold nanoparticles appear to be superior handles in optical trapping assays. We demonstrate that relatively large gold particles (Rb=50 nm) indeed yield a sixfold enhancement in trapping efficiency and detection sensitivity as compared to similar-sized polystyrene particles. However, optical absorption by gold at the most common trapping wavelength (1064 nm) induces dramatic heating (266°C/W). We determined this heating by comparing trap stiffness from three different methods in conjunction with detailed modeling. Due to this heating, gold nanoparticles are not useful for temperature-sensitive optical-trapping experiments, but may serve as local molecular heaters. Also, such particles, with their increased detection sensitivity, make excellent probes for certain zero-force biophysical assays.

© 2006 Optical Society of America

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