Optical tweezers in a dusty universe published in The European Physical Journal Plus

Pictorial representation of space tweezers, space applications of optical tweezers. Interplanetary or planetary dust can be collected and investigated directly in situ (open space or extraterrestrial surfaces). The inset represents a closeup of a grain of interplanetary dust trapped by a single-beam optical tweezers. (Image by Alessandro Magazzù)
Optical tweezers in a dusty universe
P. Polimeno, A. Magazzù, M. A. Iatì, R. Saija, L. Folco, D. Bronte Ciriza, M. G. Donato, A. Foti, P. G. Gucciardi, A. Saidi, C. Cecchi-Pestellini, A. Jimenez Escobar, E. Ammannito, G. Sindoni, I. Bertini, V. Della Corte, L. Inno, A. Ciaravella, A. Rotundi & O. M. Maragò
Eur. Phys. J. Plus 136, 339 (2021)
doi: 10.1140/epjp/s13360-021-01316-z

Optical tweezers are powerful tools based on focused laser beams. They are able to trap, manipulate, and investigate a wide range of microscopic and nanoscopic particles in different media, such as liquids, air, and vacuum. Key applications of this contactless technique have been developed in many fields. Despite this progress, optical trapping applications to planetary exploration are still to be developed. Here we describe how optical tweezers can be used to trap and characterize extraterrestrial particulate matter. In particular, we exploit light scattering theory in the T-matrix formalism to calculate radiation pressure and optical trapping properties of a variety of complex particles of astrophysical interest. Our results open perspectives in the investigation of extraterrestrial particles on our planet, in controlled laboratory experiments, aiming for space tweezers applications: optical tweezers used to trap and characterize dust particles in space or on planetary bodies surface.