Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Acoustic Tweezers

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Acoustic Tweezers

Article excerpt

Manipulating tiny objects, such as single cells or nanosized beads, often requires relatively large, unwieldy equipment, but now a system has been developed that uses tiny tweezers small enough to place on a chip, according to Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) engineers.

"Current methods for moving individual cells or tiny beads include such devices as optical tweezers, which require a lot of energy and could damage or even kill live cells," says Tony Jun Huang, assistant professor of engineering science and mechanics. "Acoustic tweezers are much smaller than optical tweezers and use 500,000 times less energy." While optical tweezers are large and expensive, acoustic tweezers are smaller than a dime--small enough to fabricate on a chip using standard chip manufacturing techniques. They can also manipulate live cells without damaging or killing them.

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Acoustic tweezers differ from eyebrow tweezers in that they position many tiny objects simultaneously and place them equidistant from each other in either parallel lines or on a grid. The grid configuration is probably the most useful for biological applications where researchers can place stem cells on a grid for testing or to grow new skin. This allows investigators to see how any type of cell grows.

"Acoustic tweezers are not just useful in biology," says Huang. …

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