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Opt Express. 2008 May 12;16(10):6921-9.

Emergent properties in optically bound matter.

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  • 1Department of Physics, Durham University, South Road, Durham DH1 3LE, UK.


Sub-micron particles have been observed to spontaneously form regular two-dimensional structures in counterpropagating evanescent laser fields. We show that collective properties of large numbers of optically-trapped particles can be qualitatively different to the properties of small numbers. This is demonstrated both with a computer model and with experimental results. As the number of particles in the structure is increased, optical binding forces can be sufficiently large to overcome the optical landscape imposed by the interference fringes of the laser beams and impose a different, competing structure.

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