The ability of surface acoustic waves to trap and manipulate micrometer-scale particles and biological cells has led to many applications involving “acoustic tweezers” in biology, chemistry, engineering, and medicine. Here, we present 3D acoustic tweezers, which use surface acoustic waves to create 3D trapping nodes for the capture and manipulation of microparticles and cells along three mutually orthogonal axes. In this method, we use standing-wave phase shifts to move particles or cells in-plane, whereas the amplitude of acoustic vibrations is used to control particle motion along an orthogonal plane. We demonstrate, through controlled experiments guided by simulations, how acoustic vibrations result in micromanipulations in a microfluidic chamber by invoking physical principles that underlie the formation and regulation of complex, volumetric trapping nodes of particles and biological cells. We further show how 3D acoustic tweezers can be used to pick up, translate, and print single cells and cell assemblies to create 2D and 3D structures in a precise, noninvasive, label-free, and contact-free manner.
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