Surface transport and stable trapping of particles and cells by an optical waveguide loop†
Waveguide trapping has emerged as a useful technique for parallel and planar transport of particles and biological cells and can be integrated with lab-on-a-chip applications. However, particles trapped on waveguides are continuously propelled forward along the surface of the waveguide. This limits the practical usability of the waveguide trapping technique with other functions (e.g. analysis, imaging) that require particles to be stationary during diagnosis. In this paper, an optical waveguide loop with an intentional gap at the centre is proposed to hold propelled particles and cells. The waveguide acts as a conveyor belt to transport and deliver the particles/cells towards the gap. At the gap, the diverging light fields hold the particles at a fixed position. The proposed waveguide design is numerically studied and experimentally implemented. The optical forces on the particle at the gap are calculated using the finite element method. Experimentally, the method is used to transport and trap micro-particles and red blood cells at the gap with varying separations. The waveguides are only 180 nm thick and thus could be integrated with other functions on the chip, e.g. microfluidics or optical detection, to make an on-chip system for single cell analysis and to study the interaction between cells.