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Methods Mol Biol. 2011;783:1-20. doi: 10.1007/978-1-61779-282-3_1.

Introduction to optical tweezers: background, system designs, and commercial solutions.

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JPK Instruments AG, Berlin, Germany.


Optical tweezers are a means to manipulate objects with light. With the technique, microscopically small objects can be held and steered while forces on the trapped objects can be accurately measured and exerted. Optical tweezers can typically obtain a nanometer spatial resolution, a piconewton force resolution, and a millisecond time resolution, which make them excellently suited to study biological processes from the single-cell down to the single-molecule level. In this chapter, we provide an introduction on the use of optical tweezers in single-molecule approaches. We introduce the basic principles and methodology involved in optical trapping, force calibration, and force measurements. Next, we describe the components of an optical tweezers setup and their experimental relevance in single-molecule approaches. Finally, we provide a concise overview of commercial optical tweezers systems. Commercial systems are becoming increasingly available and provide access to single-molecule optical tweezers experiments without the need for a thorough background in physics.

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