Copyright © 2018 The Authors.The past two decades have witnessed the revolutionary development of optical trapping of nanoparticles, most of which deal with trapping stiffness larger than 10?8 N/m. In this conventional regime, however, it remains a formidable challenge to sort out sub-50-nm nanoparticles with single-nanometer precision, isolating us from a rich flatland with advanced applications of micromanipulation. With an insightfully established roadmap of damping, the synchronization between optical force and flow drag force can be coordinated to attempt the loosely overdamped realm (stiffness, 10?10 to 10?8 N/m), which has been challenging. This paper intuitively demonstrates the remarkable functionality to sort out single gold nanoparticles with radii ranging from 30 to 50 nm, as well as 100- and 150-nm polystyrene nanoparticles, with single nanometer precision. The quasi-Bessel optical profile and the loosely overdamped potential wells in the microchannel enable those aforementioned nanoparticles to be separated, positioned, and microscopically oscillated. This work reveals an unprecedentedly meaningful damping scenario that enriches our fundamental understanding of particle kinetics in intriguing optical systems, and offers new opportunities for tumor targeting, intracellular imaging, and sorting small particles such as viruses and DNA.
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