Optical Binding and Trapping

MIT Center for Electromagnetic Theory and Applications


The list below presents some of the key papers in optical trapping and binding, momentum transfer, and radiation pressure. Please note that the list is under construction and is therefore incomplete. If you feel that some important papers should be included, please do not hesitate to contact us. Also, note that more papers are available in our searchable database.

1905:One of the earliest observations of radiation pressure (outside of the cometís tail). Poynting reconciled the tangential force of light on absorbing and reflecting surfaces from careful measurement with the theory of Maxwell.
J.H. Poynting, Tangential stress of light obliquely incident on absorbing surface, Philosophical Mag., 1905.
1910:The earliest observation of optical momentum as a result of source recoil. This experiment may be the earliest demonstration of the increase in optical momentum in media as Poynting observed transient motion of an absorber toward the source of illumination due to the expulsion of heated gasses in the other direction (the heating was due to photon absorption, which had a momentum greater than the incident light).
J.H. Poynting and G. Barlow, The pressure of light against the source: The recoil from light, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London A, 1910.
1970:The first demonstration/observation of optical manipulation of small particles with a laser. The particle was trapped in 2D while pushed along the beam axis.
A. Ashkin, Acceleration and trapping of particles by radiation pressure, Phys. Rev. Lett., 1970.
1970:Experimental evidence showed that free carriers in a weakly absorbing semiconductor recoil with a momentum of the incident momentum multiplied by the bulk material index of refraction, thus providing direct evidence that the momentum of light increases in a refracting medium.
A.F. Gibson, M.F. Kimmitt, and A.C. Walker, Photon drag in germanium, Appl. Phys. Lett., 1970.
1971:The first demonstration of optical trapping in three dimensions used gravity to counter the "scattering" force due to the beam pushing the particle.
A. Ashkin and J.M. Dziedzic, Optical levitation by radiation pressure, Appl. Phys. Lett., 1971.
1973:A pulse of light entering water was observed to create a bulge toward the incidence as the light entered the water. Although it was originally concluded that the light momentum increased as it entered the water, thus causing the water to recoil toward the source, recent analyses argue points to the contrary. This experiment still serves as an unreconciled point in the discussion of optical momentum in media.
A. Ashkin and J.M. Dziedzic, Radiation pressure on a free liquid surface, Phys. Rev. Lett., 1973.
1976:First trapping in a vacuum.
A. Ashkin and J.M. Dziedzic, Optical levitation in high vacuum, Appl. Phys. Lett., 1976.
1978:This experiment measured the deflection of a mirror immersed in a dielectric fluid. The experiment showed that the radiation pressure on the mirror is proportional to the index of refraction of the surrounding fluid.
R.V. Jones and B. Leslie, The measurement of optical radiation pressure in dispersive media, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London A, 1978.
1986:First observation of 3D all-optical trap (birth of optical tweezer).
A. Ashkin, J.M. Dziedzic, J.E. Bjorkholm, and S. Chu, Observation of a single-beam gradient force optical trap for dielectric particles, Optics Lett., 1986.
1989:First realization of binding forces in experiment.
M. Burns, J-M. Fournier and J. Golovchenko, Optical binding, Phys. Rev. Lett., 1989.
1990: Binding forces, that is the interaction forces between particles in an electromagnetic field, are described as holding many particles together in an optical potential well. The paper demonstrates also the trapping of dielectric particles in optical lattices. Optical trapping and optical binding lead both to the arrangement and organization of particles, thus the authors coined the expression "optical matter".
M. Burns, J-M. Fournier and J. Golovchenko, Optical matter: Crystallization and binding in intense optical fields, Science, 1990.
2005:This experiment is the most direct measurement of photon momentum in media so far. They measure directly the momentum of atoms in a dilute gas that have absorbed a single photon. They show that the recoil of the atom is directly proportional to the index of refraction as defined by macroscopic, classical electromagnetic wave theory.
G.K. Campbell, A.E. Leanhardt, J. Mun, M. Boyd, E.W. Streed, W. Ketterle, and D.E. Pritchard, Photon recoil momentum in dispersive media, Phys. Rev. Lett., 2005.

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