Simple, Inexpensive Fiber-based Optical Trap/Microfluidic System

University of California System: University of California, Merced
posted on 06/17/2011

Dual-beam optical traps, used in conjunction with microfluidic channels, are used for manipulating µm-scale dielectric objects such as biological cells or polystyrene beads. This type of manipulation is helpful for studying the mechanical properties of soft particles and the dynamics of particles suspended in microfluidic flows, and for holding and observing living cells over extended periods of time. However, optical traps/microfluidic systems suitable for practical applications have been quite complicated and expensive to make, primarily due to the difficulties of holding optical fibers in place mechanically on the chip or of using in situ optical wave guides or lasers as substitutes for optical fibers. Of particular concern is the need to incorporate complex microfabricated components into a system’s design to make it compact enough for use with microscopes.

Suggested Uses

The UCM optical trap/microfluidic system is generally useful for dual-beam optical trap/microfluidic applications, including:

  • testing microscope spatial and temporal resolution;
  • holding individual cells for microsurgery, observation, or incubation;
  • optically-assisted fertilization;
  • measuring microfluidic flow rates;
  • measuring elasticity of cell or other trapped objects; and
  • real-time particle capture for particle sensing.


As compared to other microfluidic systems that incorporate dual-beam optical traps, the UCM optical trap/microfluidic system is inexpensive and conceptually simple, as it doesn’t require microfabrication equipment or complicated mechanical parts for holding optical fibers in place.

Innovation Details

Detailed Description

University of California, Merced (UCM) scientists have invented a novel fiber-based dual-beam optical trap/microfluidic system that is simple, compact, and inexpensive to construct. Its chip can be fabricated using standard plexiglass, resistive wire, optical fiber, and a relatively simple heat-etching platform. The UCM system is capable of maintaining a precise alignment (comparable to much more complicated optical traps) in an integrated, robust package that is small enough and rugged enough for use in standard microscopes.

File Number: 21759 

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Copyright: ©2011, The Regents of the University of California

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This innovation currently is not available for online licensing. Please contact David Cepoi at University of California System: University of California, Merced for more information.

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David Cepoi David Cepoi

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