Optical Tweezers: Empowering Precision at the Nanoscale

The MMI optical tweezers system is based on the mechanical forces arising from a strongly focused laser beam. It enables comfortable, ultra-precise and contact-free manipulation of up to 20 microscopic particles, living suspended cells, or subcellular organisms and the measurement of intracellular activities. The new generation of CellManipulator 3.0 offers all functionalities of the previous optical tweezers system with efficient yet compact electronics that benefit from an embedded system and microprocessor.


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How can the MMI optical tweezers be applied to your research?

Do you want to make novel discoveries in life science? Do you need a non-invasive technique to spatiotemporally control the movement or the interaction of the nano/micro-metric-sized objects and to study them? The MMI optical trapping solution is the answer. Independent of the application/topic we will find the right solution for you.

Applications with Optical Tweezers

Your benefits in using the MMI optical tweezers

Keep it Flexible
CellManipulator is the most flexible optical tweezers. Compatible with almost all inverted or upright research microscopes. It is easily extendable to fluorescence, TIRF, Confocal Microscopy and many more customized adaptations.

Become an Expert in 10 min
With the intuitive and flexible MMI CellTools analysis software, you can simply organize and manipulate your optical traps. Optical Trapping was never so easy.

The Strongest Trap
Use the optical tweezers with the strongest trap on the market with > 1200 pN escape force. Never lose your particle.

Huge Work Space
The entire laser beam control is located underneath the trapping lens. This open-space architecture provides unrivalled free space above the optical trap. Perfect for customizable force measurements and other applications.

Finest Force Measurements
Sub-pN resolution imaging detectors deliver your force data with fully automated calibration procedures. No compromise in work space.

Highest Modularity
The compact MMI optical tweezers is a modular system, which can be composed individually according to your needs and experimental requirements. It is compatible with all other MMI Single Cell Solutions (e.g. CellCut & CellEctor)  

MMI CellManipulator

This is what our customers appreciate

The MMI CellManipulator optical tweezers was customized on an upright microscope upon our request. The optical tweezers has been working reliably, with excellent manipulation power and flexibility on various devices, from simply glass slides to microelectrodes on silicon. The MMI service was also professional, fast and considerate.

Chengxun Liu, Ph.D. Bio-Nano Electronics Department

Study of cell-cell interactions and binding forces

Optical tweezers Revolutionize Cell-Cell Interaction Studies

The MMI optical tweezers enable the manipulation of cells to promote cell-cell interactions and directly measure their binding forces while maintaining complete control over the cell’s orientation and the time of the cell-cell contact. This is incredibly valuable for conducting dynamic studies on cell-cell interaction forces and measuring cell avidity with single-cell resolution.

A frequent application for optical tweezers is measuring the cell-cell interaction forces between immune cells.

  • The MMI optical tweezers facilitates cell-cell interactions and enable the measurement of binding forces
  • Complete control over cell orientation and contact time is maintained
Study of Cell-cell Interactions with the MMICellManipulator

Intracellular manipulation with optical tweezers

Intracellular manipulation using optical tweezers

One of the first applications using optical tweezers was the manipulation of intracellular particles, such as chloroplasts and nuclei, and examined the viscoelastic properties of plastic flow, necking, and stress relaxation inside a living cell.

Cell nucleus indentation & subcellular mechanics
Another common application with optical tweezers is to study the role of the nucleus in mechanotransduction by measuring the force and material properties that shape the cell nucleus inside living cells. Internalized microparticles like lipid droplets enable the stretching and indenting of the cell nucleus while monitoring time-force and time-displacement curves. Therefore, with the MMI optical tweezers it becomes feasible to gather information about viscoelastic properties and stiffness of the cell nucleus.

Molecular motor studies

One of the most important application for optical tweezers is to measure the detailed motions of motor proteins such as kinesin, dynein and myosin. Motor proteins support a wide variety of cellular functions including organelle transport, cell and chromosomal division and muscle contraction.

Study life under tension
Thanks to numerous technical improvements, optical trapping with the MMI CellManipulator allows synthesizing up to 10 multiple independent optical traps and to measure the forces of motor proteins in sub-pN resolution. To measure these forces, the molecule of interest needs to be attached at two points: One end to a small microparticle, and the other end to a fixed substrate or a second microparticle in a separate optical trap. The following visualization shows two typical applications to study motor proteins: 1. Measurement of the stall force of dynein motor proteins transporting vesicles along microtubules and 2. studying actomyosin interaction with a dual-beam trap.

Molecular motor studies with MMI optical tweezers

Laser Tweezers Raman Spectroscopy

Laser Tweezers Raman Microspectroscopy

Raman spectroscopy is an analytical technique, based on the inelastic scattering of photons upon interacting with matter. The inelastic scattered photons have different wavelengths/colours compared to the incoming photons generated from the light source. The spectrum generated is dependent on the chemistry of the object. Raman spectroscopy in life science is used to perform so-called “molecular fingerprinting”. Each protein has a unique biochemistry and therefore generates a unique Raman spectrum. The combination of the MMI optical tweezers with Raman spectroscopy can be applied to detect the upregulation of specific proteins in cancer cells.

How to combine Optical trapping with your specific application?
Our goal is to meet your requirements in making the perfect micromanipulation setup for your specific applications. Just contact us and we will help you.

Isolation and manipulation of rare cells

Combining optical tweezers and microfluidic chip technologies
The isolation and manipulation of rare cells with high recovery and purity are crucial for downstream multi-omics profiling. The combination of the MMI optical tweezers with microfluidic chip technology enables the real-time sorting of small cell populations with high accuracy. The system is using a laminar flow to focus the targeted cells. The optical tweezers can then precisely move the cell in a non-invasive manner to the desired destination. In contrast to traditional cell sorting technologies, such as flow cytometry, cell sorting with optical tweezers has the unique advantage of its high recovery rate, flexibility and purity in small cell population sorting.

Cell Sorting with the MMI CellManipulator

Optical trapping of living organisms with the MMI optical tweezers

Trapping swimming bacterium


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Detaching bacterium


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Trapping diatom


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Optical tweezers with the highest flexibility and modularity

Cell Picking with CellEctor

The MMI CellManipulator is the most flexible optical tweezers system. The optical tweezers is compatible with numerous microscope brands from entry-level, mid-range to high-end instruments. In addition, the MMI optical tweezers is easily extendable to fluorescence, TIRF, confocal microscopy, Raman spectroscopy and many more applications. Just contact us and we will help you to configure your customized system.

Optical tweezers meets cell picking and laser microdissection
The MMI CellManipulator can also be flexibly combined with all other MMI tools, such as the MMI CellEctor for the isolation of single cells in suspensions, or with the MMI CellCut for precise laser microdissection.

What are Optical Tweezers?

Optical Tweezers are able to hold and move microscopic particles just employing laser light. Therefore, particles can be manipulated in a precise and contact-free way, only using the momentum generated by laser light. This makes laser light tweezers a versatile and powerful tool for various research areas such as cell-based studies, Measurement of Binding Forces as well as DNA or RNA binding.

How were optical tweezers first discovered and how do they work?

Arthur Ashkin has been awarded with the Nobel Prize for physics in 2018 for “optical tweezers and their application to biological systems”. The optical tweezers principle is based on the discovery that light has momentum. Once a laser beam is encountering an object such as a glass sphere or a cell, the light will be refracted. In the center of the beam, the light will be brighter and more light is refracted from here than from the outside of the beam. As momentum needs to be constant, the object will be trapped in the center of the beam where the forces generated by refracted light is cancelling out. For optical trapping, laser based optical tweezers are applied which have the optimal properties to generate the optical trap.

Arthur Ashkin

In this video, the optical trapping theory as well as optical tweezers are explained and the video also visualizes how laser traps are generated and how laser tweezers work:


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What are optical tweezers being used for?

Optical tweezers are applied in a plethora of different research areas such as in cell biology, biomedicine, drug discovery, biochemistry, biophysics as well as in physics or material sciences. Therefore, the optical tweezers uses are highly diverse. This list just mentions a small selection:

  • Cell-based studies: Cell interactions and intracellular manipulations
  • Measurement of Binding Forces: Bacterial and viral adhesion studies
  • Molecular Motor Studies: Actin & myosin, kinesin & dynein motors
  • DNA or RNA binding: Interaction forces, helicase and translocase activities
  • Laser Raman Tweezers: Isolation of cells and microorganisms
  • Lab-on-a-Chip Device: Biosensor assays

Can optical tweezers be used for single cells?

Yes, optical tweezers are ideally suited to study single cells. Using optical traps, the target cells can be manipulated in a precise and contact-free way thereby avoiding any risks of contamination. In addition, using infrared lasers, the cell’s viability is not compromised during the experiment. Thus, the laser tweezer technology is also suitable for work with living cells, such as for drug discovery projects. Some optical tweezer systems, such as the MMI CellManipulator, are equipped with a second tweezer level to independently hold two cells or particles at the very same time and to precisely measure their interaction forces by force spectroscopy.

Are there any limitations of optical tweezers that I need to be aware of?

Optical tweezers can optically trap particles that are transparent for infrared light and have an optical refraction index n of the object higher than the surrounding medium nO > nM. In addition, the particles must be between 200 nm – 20 µm in size and should have a relatively smooth surface..

MMI CellManipulator: Documents

Application Note

Optical trapping and force spectroscopy of non-spherical rod-shaped bacteria and diatoms


It’s a Trap! Advanced Laser Tweezers System

MMI CellManipulator Brochure


Product Fact Sheet with all CellManipulator specifications

CellManipulator Specifications

User Manual

Manual CellManipulator

How can we support your project?

Asif Khan

David Hitrys

Ashley Remy

We’re here to help – please feel free to contact us!

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