The increasing interest in the mechanical properties of complex systems at mesoscopic scale has recently fueled the development of new experimental techniques, collectively indicated as microrheology. Unlike bulk-based approaches (macrorheology), these new techniques make use of micrometric probes (usually microspheres) which explore the mechanical properties of the surrounding medium. In this paper we discuss the basic idea of microrheology and we will focus on one specific technique based on optical tweezers (OT). The discussion starts from Newtonian fluids to tackle the more general case of complex fluids, also showing results of these techniques on solutions of a relevant biomolecule: hyaluronic acid (HA). In particular, we study the viscoelastic properties of low molecular weight HA (155 kDa) at low ionic strength over an extended frequency range (0.1–1000 Hz) and in a wide range of concentrations (0.01–20 mg ml−1), which include both the dilute and semidilute regime. In the concentration range here explored and within the test frequencies covered by our techniques, samples prevalently exhibit a viscous behavior, the elastic contribution becoming significant at the highest concentrations. By comparing OT outcomes to those obtained by a traditional rheometer, we found that they were in good agreement in the overlapping frequency range of the two techniques, thus confirming the reliability of the microrheological approach.
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