Office of Technology Transfer – University of Michigan

Acoustic Tweezers

Technology #2289


Optical tweezers have been successfully used to manipulate both subcellular structures and individual biological macromolecules. While optical tweezers are widely used in research, they are restricted to isolated preparations because they require an optically refractive bead.


Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a method and system to create and acoustically manipulate structures such as cells and subcellular structures at a nanoscopic scale without the requirement of an external component such as a refractive bead. In particular, nanobubble are created with ultra fast optical pulses, manipulated with ultrasound, and then removed from the system over periods of time ranging from milliseconds to minutes, depending on the mechanical microenvionment of the bubble. The ability to place a bubble anywhere in 3-dimensions within a cell culture or an intact tissue, manipulate it in situ, and have it passively reabsorbed overcomes the primary limitations of optical tweezers.

Applications and Advantages


  • In situ manipulation of materials, including biological applications


  • Enables manipulation in situ, without use of external components