Optical binding in nanoparticle assembly: Potential energy landscapes

  • Rodríguez J
  • Dávila Romero L
  • Andrews D
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Optical binding is an optomechanical effect exhibited by systems of
micro- and nanoparticles, suitably irradiated with off-resonance laser
light. Physically distinct from standing-wave and other forms of
holographic optical traps, the phenomenon arises as a result of an
interparticle coupling with individual radiation modes, leading to
optically induced modifications to Casmir-Polder interactions. To
better understand how this mechanism leads to the observed assemblies
and formation of patterns in nanoparticles, we develop a theory in
terms of optically induced energy landscapes exhibiting the
three-dimensional form of the potential energy field. It is shown in
detail that the positioning and magnitude of local energy maxima and
minima depend on the configuration of each particle pair, with regards
to the polarization and wave vector of the laser light. The analysis
reveals how the positioning of local minima determines the
energetically most favorable locations for the addition of a third
particle to each equilibrium pair. It is also demonstrated how the
result of such an addition subtly modifies the energy landscape that
will, in turn, determine the optimum location for further particle
additions. As such, this development represents a rigorous and general
formulation of the theory, paving the way toward full comprehension of
nanoparticle assembly based on optical binding.

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