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Using Light Scattering to Track, Characterize and Manipulate Colloids

By P.D.J. van Oostrum


A new technique is developed to analyze in-line Digital Holographic Microscopy images, making it possible to characterize, and track colloidal particles in three dimensions at unprecedented accuracy. We took digital snapshots of the interference pattern between the light scattered by micrometer particles and the unaltered portion of a laser beam that was used to illuminate dilute colloidal dispersions on a light microscope in transmission mode. We numerically fit Mie-theory for the light-scattering by micrometer sized particles to these experimental in-line holograms. The fit values give the position in three dimensions with an accuracy of a few nanometers in the lateral directions and several tens of nanometers in the axial direction. The individual particles radii and refractive indices could be determined to within tens of nanometers and a few hundredths respectively. By using a fast CCD camera, we can track particles with millisecond resolution in time which allows us to study dynamical properties such as the hydrodynamic radius and the sedimentation coefficient. The scattering behavior of the particles that we use to track and characterize colloidal particles makes it possible to exert pico-Newton forces on them close to a diffraction limited focus. When these effects are used to confine colloids in space, this technique is called Optical Tweezers. Both by numerical calculations and by experiments, we explore the possibilities of optical tweezers in soft condensed matter research. Using optical tweezers we placed multiple particles in interesting configurations to measure the interaction forces between them. The interaction forces were Yukawa-like screened charge repulsions. Careful timing of the blinking of time-shared optical tweezers and of the recording of holographic snapshots, we were able to measure interaction forces with femto-Newton accuracy from an analysis of (driven) Brownian motion. Forces exerted by external fields such as electric fields and gravity were measured as well. We induced electric dipoles in colloidal particles by applying radiofrequency electric fields. Dipole induced strings of particles were formed and made permanent by van der Waals attractions or thermal annealing. Such colloidal strings form colloidal analogues of charged and un-charged (bio-) polymers. The diffusion and bending behavior of such strings was probed using DHM and optical tweezers

Year: 2011
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