Orientation of optically trapped nonspherical birefringent particles

Centre for Biophotonics and Laser Science, Department of Physics, The University of Queensland, Brisbane QLD 4072, Australia.
Physical Review E (Impact Factor: 2.29). 03/2006; 73(2 Pt 1):021911. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevE.73.021911
Source: PubMed


While the alignment and rotation of microparticles in optical traps have received increased attention recently, one of the earliest examples has been almost totally neglected--the alignment of particles relative to the beam axis, as opposed to about the beam axis. However, since the alignment torques determine how particles align in a trap, they are directly relevant to practical applications. Lysozyme crystals are an ideal model system to study factors determining the orientation of nonspherical birefringent particles in a trap. Both their size and their aspect ratio can be controlled by the growth parameters, and their regular shape makes computational modeling feasible. We show that both external (shape) and internal (birefringence) anisotropy contribute to the alignment torque. Three-dimensionally trapped elongated objects either align with their long axis parallel or perpendicular to the beam axis depending on their size. The shape-dependent torque can exceed the torque due to birefringence, and can align negative uniaxial particles with their optic axis parallel to the electric field, allowing an application of optical torque about the beam axis.

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