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ACS Nano. 2013 Feb 26;7(2):1790-802. doi: 10.1021/nn3059407. Epub 2013 Feb 12.

Guiding spatial arrangements of silver nanoparticles by optical binding interactions in shaped light fields.

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Department of Chemistry and The James Franck Institute, The University of Chicago, 929 East 57th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.


We demonstrate assembly of spheroidal Ag nanoparticle clusters, chains and arrays induced by optical binding. Particles with diameters of 40 nm formed ordered clusters and chains in aqueous solution when illuminated by shaped optical fields with a wavelength of 800 nm; specifically, close-packed clusters were formed in cylindrically symmetric optical traps, and linear chains were formed in line traps. We developed a coupled-dipole model to calculate the optical forces between an arbitrary number of particles and successfully predicted the experimentally observed particle separations and arrangements as well as their dependence on the polarization of the incident light. This demonstrates that the interaction between these small Ag particles and light is well described by approximating the particles as point dipoles, showing that these experiments extend optical binding into the Rayleigh regime. For larger Ag nanoparticles, with diameters of approximately 100 nm, the optical-binding forces become comparable to the largest gradient forces in the optical trap, and the particles can arrange themselves into regular arrays or synthetic photonic lattices. Finally, we discuss the differences between our experimental observations and the point dipole theory and suggest factors that prevent the Ag nanoparticles from aggregating as expected from the theory.

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