Fully angularly resolved 3D microrheology with optical tweezers

Andrew B. Matheson*, Tania Mendonca, Matthew G. Smith, Ben Sutcliffe, Andrea Jannina Fernandez, Lynn Paterson, Paul A. Dalgarno, Amanda J. Wright, Manlio Tassieri*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Downloads (Pure)


Microrheology with optical tweezers (MOT) is an all-optical technique that allows the user to investigate a materials’ viscoelastic properties at microscopic scales, and is particularly useful for those materials that feature complex microstructures, such as biological samples. MOT is increasingly being employed alongside 3D imaging systems and particle tracking methods to generate maps showing not only how properties may vary between different points in a sample but also how at a single point the viscoelastic properties may vary with direction. However, due to the diffraction limited shape of focussed beams, optical traps are inherently anisotropic in 3D. This can result in a significant overestimation of the fluids’ viscosity in certain directions. As such, the rheological properties can only be accurately probed along directions parallel or perpendicular to the axis of trap beam propagation. In this work, a new analytical method is demonstrated to overcome this potential artefact. This is achieved by performing principal component analysis on 3D MOT data to characterise the trap, and then identify the frequency range over which trap anisotropy influences the data. This approach is initially applied to simulated data for a Newtonian fluid where the trap anisotropy induced maximum error in viscosity is reduced from ~ 150% to less than 6%. The effectiveness of the method is corroborated by experimental MOT measurements performed with water and gelatine solutions, thus confirming that the microrheology of a fluid can be extracted reliably across a wide frequency range and in any arbitrary direction. This work opens the door to fully spatially and angularly resolved 3D mapping of the rheological properties of soft materials over a broad frequency range.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-217
Number of pages13
JournalRheologica Acta
Issue number3
Early online date8 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


  • Computer modeling
  • Microrheology
  • Simulation
  • Viscosity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemical Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials


Dive into the research topics of 'Fully angularly resolved 3D microrheology with optical tweezers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this