Our experiments have used arrayed traps in the near field of a photonic crystal to selectively capture nanoparticles by size. The photonic crystal is designed to support a guided resonance mode, and the incident laser is tuned to the resonance wavelength. Each hole of the photonic crystal acts as a trapping site.
In this work, we use simulations of particle dynamics to determine the optimal experimental conditions for size selection. We include the effects of optical forces, fluid flow, and Brownian motion and explicitly track the trajectories of particles near an array of trapping sites. We study the effects of varying chamber height, flow rate, and particle concentration on size selectivity and trapping yield. We further present photonic crystal designs for selectively trapping smaller or larger particles out of mixed-particle solutions.
Optical trapping serves as a powerful tool for the manipulation of matter on the nanoscale and ultra-precise measurement of weak forces. However, the applicability of these tools is limited by the available laser power and trap efficiency. We utilized the strong confinement of light in a slot-graphite photonic crystal to develop high-efficiency parallel trapping over a large area. The stiffness is several orders of magnitude higher than conventional optical tweezers and two orders of magnitude higher than our previously demonstrated on-chip, near field traps. We demonstrate the ability to trap both dielectric and metallic nanoparticles of sub-micron size. We find that the growth kinetics of nanoparticle arrays on the slot-graphite template depends on particle size. Smaller particles diffuse more, more readily occupying the available trap sites and inhibiting the trapping of larger particles. Smaller particles also sink more into the holes in the photonic crystal, resulting in stronger mechanical confinement and a deeper potential well. We use these differences to selectively trap one type of particle out of a binary colloidal mixture, creating an efficient optical sieve. This technique has rich potential in the fields of trace analysis, optical diagnostics, and enrichment and sorting of microscopic entities and molecules.