Mission of the project
Optical tweezers (OT) enable trapping, manipulation, and characterization of a wide range of microscopic and nanoscopic particles, in liquids, air, and vacuum. Since the pioneering work by Ashkin, that led him to the Nobel prize in Physics 2018, key applications of this contactless technique have been developed in many fields.
Despite this progress, OT applications to planetary exploration is still to be fully developed. We propose research activities, based on OT available in our laboratory, to trap and characterize spectroscopically extraterrestrial particles and their analogs. The opportunity to apply OT to planetary particulate matter can pave the way for space applications for in situ analyses and/or for sample return of particles in pristine conditions, i.e. preventing contamination and alteration, unlike collection methods so far used in space exploration.