Light induced dielectrophoresis (LIDEP) is a variant of the dielectrophoresis (DEP) mechanism that has been used for some time to manipulate particles in a microfluidic environment. Rather than relying on lithographically created contacts to generate the required electrical fields, the electrical contacts in LIDEP are created through the selective illumination of a photoconductor. The key question we address is how microscopic traps created via LIDEP compare to optical traps based on the gradient force, in terms of power required and trap stiffness achieved, as well as the size resolution of such a trap. We highlight the complex interplay between optical power and resolution with electrical parameters, such as the electrical resistance and applied AC Voltage. We show that for a spotsize of five micrometres and larger, particles can indeed be trapped with low power. We use trap stiffness per mW to compare LIDEP with an optical trap and show that our system is 470± 94 times suffer per mW than a conventional optical trap, with no loss of resolution. We also discuss the difficulties of achieving trapping at smaller spot sizes, and that the submicron resolution possible with gradient force trapping is very difficult to realise with LIDEP. © 2007 Optical Society of America.