Bubble-Pen Lithography for Versatile and Low-power Optical Manipulation and Patterning of Colloidal Particles

Physical Sciences : Mechanical

Available for licensing


  • Yuebing Zheng, Ph.D. , Mech Engineering
  • Linhan Lin, Ph.D. , Texas Materials Institute
  • Xiaolei Peng , Texas Materials Institute

Background/unmet need

Colloidal particles, which are emerging as building blocks for functional devices, need be patterned on solid-state substrates for practical applications. Many studies in life science and biochemistry such as cell communication and signaling, drug screening and biomolecule sensing require the versatile manipulation of cells and biomolecules. However, techniques that can achieve versatile, low-cost and high-throughput manipulation and patterning of the colloidal particles and cells are still lacking. BPL solves current challenges and meets the requirements for the practically applicable patterning of particles and cells.
Current methods such as hydrodynamic patterning can only work on defined patterns. Despite their versatility, optical tweezers are hindered by its complex optics and high optical power that damages the particles and cells. Newly developed optoelectronic tweezers have special requirements on solutions such as the use of non-conductive solutions for the particles, cells and molecules.

Invention Description

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin exploit the plasmon-enhanced photothermal effects on the quasi-continuous gold nano-island substrates to create microbubbles using simple optical setup and low-power laser (640 μw/μm2) to capture and immobilize colloidal particles on the substrates. Through directing the laser beam to move the microbubble, we create arbitrary single-particle patterns and particle assemblies with different resolutions and architectures. Furthermore, we have applied BPL to pattern CdSe/ZnS quantum dots on plasmonic substrates and polystyrene (PS) microparticles on two-dimensional (2D) atomic-layer materials. With the low-power operation, arbitrary patterning and applicability to general colloidal particles, BPL will find a wide range of applications in microelectronics, nanophotonics, and nanomedicine.


    The capability of patterning colloidal particles into functional materials and devices at low cost and high throughput.


  • Low cost
  • Scalable to industrial processing and commercialization
  • Arbitrary patterning
  • General to particle types
  • Low-power and safe operation
  • Simple optics

Market potential/applications

 Materials manufacturing companies, medical device companies, and electronic and photonic device companies etc.

Development Stage

Lab/bench prototype

IP Status

  • 1 U.S. patent application filed

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