Optothermal rotation of micro-/nano-objects

Chem Commun (Camb). 2023 Feb 21;59(16):2208-2221. doi: 10.1039/d2cc06955e.


Due to its contactless and fuel-free operation, optical rotation of micro-/nano-objects provides tremendous opportunities for cellular biology, three-dimensional (3D) imaging, and micro/nanorobotics. However, complex optics, extremely high operational power, and the applicability to limited objects restrict the broader use of optical rotation techniques. This Feature Article focuses on a rapidly emerging class of optical rotation techniques, termed optothermal rotation. Based on light-mediated thermal phenomena, optothermal rotation techniques overcome the bottlenecks of conventional optical rotation by enabling versatile rotary control of arbitrary objects with simpler optics using lower powers. We start with the fundamental thermal phenomena and concepts: thermophoresis, thermoelectricity, thermo-electrokinetics, thermo-osmosis, thermal convection, thermo-capillarity, and photophoresis. Then, we highlight various optothermal rotation techniques, categorizing them based on their rotation modes (i.e., in-plane and out-of-plane rotation) and the thermal phenomena involved. Next, we explore the potential applications of these optothermal manipulation techniques in areas such as single-cell mechanics, 3D bio-imaging, and micro/nanomotors. We conclude the Feature Article with our insights on the operating guidelines, existing challenges, and future directions of optothermal rotation.

Publication types

  • Review