Giovanni Volpe awarded with the ERC Proof of Concept Grant

Giovanni Volpe has been awarded with the ERC Proof of Concept Grant for the research project LUCERO: Smart Optofluidic micromanipulation of Biological Samples.

The grant, consisting of 150k EUR, is meant to commercialize the research project LUCERO, providing an innovative method that combines artificial intelligence and optical tweezers to analyze cells easily and inexpensively.

The current technologies for cell analysis have many limitations: they require access to a large number of cells and considerable expertise. The available methods are also labor-intensive and in some cases the cells are destroyed.

The new method developed in LUCERO simplifies the work and lowers the costs of biomedical research by allowing ordinary standard microscopes, which are already in use in biomedical laboratories, to be used to perform the cell analysis.

The method of LUCERO can be used in several areas, from artificial insemination to forensic medicine. It has potentially a large commercial market.

Giovanni Volpe expects that LUCERO will provide around 20 jobs for university-trained experts and researchers within the next five years.

The project LUCERO has already received initial funding and support from two different organizations (Venture Cup and SPIE). Two doctoral students, Falko Schmidt and Martin B. Mojica, are part of LUCERO’s contributors team.

Links:
Press release of the Swedish Research Council: in English, in Swedish.
News on Gothenburg University website: in Swedish.

Machine learning reveals complex behaviours in optically trapped particles on ArXiv

Illustration of a fully connected neural network with three inputs, three outputs, and three hidden layers.

Machine learning reveals complex behaviours in optically trapped particles
Isaac C. D. Lenton, Giovanni Volpe, Alexander B. Stilgoe, Timo A. Nieminen & Halina Rubinsztein-Dunlop
arXiv: 2004.08264

Since their invention in the 1980s, optical tweezers have found a wide range of applications, from biophotonics and mechanobiology to microscopy and optomechanics. Simulations of the motion of microscopic particles held by optical tweezers are often required to explore complex phenomena and to interpret experimental data. For the sake of computational efficiency, these simulations usually model the optical tweezers as an harmonic potential. However, more physically-accurate optical-scattering models are required to accurately model more onerous systems; this is especially true for optical traps generated with complex fields. Although accurate, these models tend to be prohibitively slow for problems with more than one or two degrees of freedom (DoF), which has limited their broad adoption. Here, we demonstrate that machine learning permits one to combine the speed of the harmonic model with the accuracy of optical-scattering models. Specifically, we show that a neural network can be trained to rapidly and accurately predict the optical forces acting on a microscopic particle. We demonstrate the utility of this approach on two phenomena that are prohibitively slow to accurately simulate otherwise: the escape dynamics of swelling microparticles in an optical trap, and the rotation rates of particles in a superposition of beams with opposite orbital angular momenta. Thanks to its high speed and accuracy, this method can greatly enhance the range of phenomena that can be efficiently simulated and studied.

Gain-Assisted Optomechanical Position Locking of Metal/Dielectric Nanoshells in Optical Potentials published on ACS Photonics

Counter-propagating laser beam intensity, represented and projected on the yz plane.
Gain-Assisted Optomechanical Position Locking of Metal/Dielectric Nanoshells in Optical Potentials
Paolo Polimeno, Francesco Patti, Melissa Infusino, Jonathan Sánchez, Maria A. Iatì, Rosalba Saija, Giovanni Volpe, Onofrio M. Maragò & Alessandro Veltri
ACS Photonics 7(5), 1262–1270 (2020)
doi: https://doi.org/10.1021/acsphotonics.0c00213

We investigate gain-assisted optical forces on dye-enriched silver nanoshell in the quasi-static limit by means of a theoretical/numerical approach. We demonstrate the onset of nonlinear optical trapping of these resonant nanostructures in a counter-propagating Gaussian beam configuration. We study the optical forces and trapping behavior as a function of wavelength, particle gain level, and laser power. We support the theoretical analysis with Brownian dynamics simulations that show how particle position locking is achieved at high gains in extended optical trapping potentials. Finally, for wavelengths blue-detuned with respect to the plasmon-enhanced resonance, we observe particle channeling by the standing wave antinodes due to gradient force reversal. This work opens perspectives for gain-assisted optomechanics where nonlinear optical forces are finely tuned to efficiently trap, manipulate, channel, and deliver an externally controlled nanophotonic system.

Optical Tweezers: A Comprehensive Tutorial from Calibration to Applications on ArXiv

Schematic of a bistable potential generated with a double-beam optical tweezers.

Optical Tweezers: A Comprehensive Tutorial from Calibration to Applications
Jan Gieseler, Juan Ruben Gomez-Solano, Alessandro Magazzù, Isaac Pérez Castillo, Laura Pérez García, Marta Gironella-Torrent, Xavier Viader-Godoy, Felix Ritort, Giuseppe Pesce, Alejandro V. Arzola, Karen Volke-Sepulveda & Giovanni Volpe
arXiv: 2004.05246

Since their invention in 1986 by Arthur Ashkin and colleagues, optical tweezers have become an essential tool in several fields of physics, spectroscopy, biology, nanotechnology, and thermodynamics. In this Tutorial, we provide a primer on how to calibrate optical tweezers and how to use them for advanced applications. After a brief general introduction on optical tweezers, we focus on describing and comparing the various available calibration techniques. Then, we discuss some cutting-edge applications of optical tweezers in a liquid medium, namely to study single-molecule and single-cell mechanics, microrheology, colloidal interactions, statistical physics, and transport phenomena. Finally, we consider optical tweezers in vacuum, where the absence of a viscous medium offers vastly different dynamics and presents new challenges. We conclude with some perspectives for the field and the future application of optical tweezers. This Tutorial provides both a step-by-step guide ideal for non-specialists entering the field and a comprehensive manual of advanced techniques useful for expert practitioners. All the examples are complemented by the sample data and software necessary to reproduce them.

Ordering of Binary Colloidal Crystals by Random Potentials published on Soft Matter

Ordering of binary colloidal crystals by random potentials

Ordering of Binary Colloidal Crystals by Random Potentials
André S. Nunes, Sabareesh K. P. Velu, Iryna Kasianiuk, Denys Kasyanyuk, Agnese Callegari, Giorgio Volpe, Margarida M. Telo da Gama, Giovanni Volpe & Nuno A. M. Araújo
Soft Matter 16, 4267-4273 (2020)
doi: https://doi.org/10.1039/D0SM00208A
arXiv: 1903.01579

Structural defects are ubiquitous in condensed matter, and not always a nuisance. For example, they underlie phenomena such as Anderson localization and hyperuniformity, and they are now being exploited to engineer novel materials. Here, we show experimentally that the density of structural defects in a 2D binary colloidal crystal can be engineered with a random potential. We generate the random potential using an optical speckle pattern, whose induced forces act strongly on one species of particles (strong particles) and weakly on the other (weak particles). Thus, the strong particles are more attracted to the randomly distributed local minima of the optical potential, leaving a trail of defects in the crystalline structure of the colloidal crystal. While, as expected, the crystalline ordering initially decreases with an increasing fraction of strong particles, the crystalline order is surprisingly recovered for sufficiently large fractions. We confirm our experimental results with particle-based simulations, which permit us to elucidate how this non-monotonic behavior results from the competition between the particle-potential and particle-particle interactions.