Construction and operation of a light-driven gold nanorod rotary motor system
Journal article, 2018
The possibility to generate and measure rotation and torque at the nanoscale is of fundamental interest to the study and application of biological and artificial nanomotors and may provide new routes towards single cell analysis, studies of non-equilibrium thermodynamics, and mechanical actuation of nanoscale systems. A facile way to drive rotation is to use focused circularly polarized laser light in optical tweezers. Using this approach, metallic nanoparticles can be operated as highly efficient scattering-driven rotary motors spinning at unprecedented rotation frequencies in water. In this protocol, we outline the construction and operation of circularly-polarized optical tweezers for nanoparticle rotation and describe the instrumentation needed for recording the Brownian dynamics and Rayleigh scattering of the trapped particle. The rotational motion and the scattering spectra provides independent information on the properties of the nanoparticle and its immediate environment. The experimental platform has proven useful as a nanoscopic gauge of viscosity and local temperature, for tracking morphological changes of nanorods and molecular coatings, and as a transducer and probe of photothermal and thermodynamic processes.