Using Brownian motion to measure shape asymmetry in mesoscopic matter using optical tweezers†
We propose a new method for quantifying shape asymmetry on the mesoscopic scale. The method takes advantage of the intrinsic coupling between rotational and translational Brownian motion (RBM and TBM, respectively) which happens in the case of asymmetric particles. We determine the coupling by measuring different correlation functions of the RBM and TBM for single, morphologically different, weakly trapped red blood cells in optical tweezers. The cells have different degrees of asymmetry that are controllably produced by varying the hypertonicity of their aqueous environment. We demonstrate a clear difference in the nature of the correlation functions both qualitatively and quantitatively for three types of cells having a varying degree of asymmetry. This method can have a variety of applications ranging from early stage disease diagnosis to quality control in microfabrication.