Optical tweezers controled via iPad

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Optics researchers from the Universities of Glasgow and Bristol have developed an iPad application for accurate, easy and intuitive use of optical tweezers. Optical tweezers, used to manipulate tiny particles through the use of highly focused laser beams, are an important tool in many molecular biology applications, where precise manipulation on a microscopic scale allows scientists to better understand the microscopic processes of organisms.

Control of the lasers used in optical tweezers systems has often been limited by the functionality of the computer mouse or joystick, making it difficult to manipulate microscopic particles in the range of directions that researchers would like to manipulate them in. The new multi-touch-based application allows researchers a clear representative 3D view of particle systems and offers a range of techniques, like pinching the screen or tilting the iPad, for moving single and multi-particles left and right, up and down, and to rotate them.  

Due to the iPad’s wireless capability, the app will also help with regards laser safety and avoiding experimental contamination. The researchers comment: 'Our iPad-based interface allows intuitive control of a holographic optical tweezers system using a dedicated application on the iPad and a modified version of our tweezers’ control software running on a host PC. The interface is responsive and easy to use, so even inexperienced users can trap particles, move them around and translate the microscope stage.'