Light-Directed Reversible Assembly of General Plasmonic Nanoparticles Using Plasmon-Enhanced Thermophoresis

Physical Sciences : Materials and Compounds

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

Background/unmet need

Plasmonic nanoparticle assemblies that feature high particle intensity and small inter-particle distance are of significant importance in applications that utilize multiple, intense electromagnetic hot spots. Compared with methods that use pH of the solution, environmental temperature, and metal-ion coordination/voltage, optical manipulation of plasmonic nanoparticles can provide remote, real-time and versatile control with advantages in applications such as nano-fabrication, drug delivery and bio-sensing.

Traditional optical tweezers make use of gradient forces and demand a tightly focused laser beam of high power intensity, which have limitations such as unexpected photochemical or thermal reactions. Surface plasmon polaritons (SPPs) on a metallic thin film can relax the power requirement, but are of a low efficiency and only work for limited types of nanoparticles for a certain laser wavelength. To solves these challenges, this technique exploits plasmon-enhanced thermophoresis to achieve non-invasive and versatile manipulation of general plasmonic nano particles with low optical power.

Invention Description

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have exploited the integration of plasmon-enhanced thermophoretic effect on the quasi-continuous gold nano-island substrates and holographic optical system to form and manipulate assemblies of general plasmonic nanoparticles in a low-power, rapid, parallel and dynamic fashion. For its non-invasive and reversible nature, the method is applied for surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy to analyze molecules in their native liquid environments. Low-power and parallel operation, reversible nanoparticle assembly, and applicability to general nanoparticles allow this technique to open up a new window of opportunities for trapping, manipulating, patterning, and sensing of nanoparticles for bio-sensing and biochemistry studies.


  • Low cost of substrates
  • Scalable to commercialization
  • Enables manipulation of general plasmonic nanoparticles for study and clinical applications


  • Non-contact, versatile manipulation
  • Applicable to various type of plasmonic nanoparticles
  • Low-power and safe operation
  • Remote control and high-performance sensing in native liquid environments.

Market potential/applications

Any industry that utilizes nano-fabrication techniques, such as semiconductors, medical devices, and bio-sensing.

Development Stage

Lab/bench prototype

IP Status

  • 1 PCT patent application filed