Ant and optical pliers

Pliers smaller than an ant’s jaws are controlled by optical fibres

The tiny pliers (in red) are smaller than an ant’s jaws

Łukasz Zinkiewicz, Faculty of Physics, University of Warsaw

Minuscule pliers made of soft filaments added to the ends of optical fibres can be controlled with visible light, and could be used to grip objects tens of micrometres in size, such as some individual cells.

Piotr Wasylczyk at the University of Warsaw in Poland and his colleagues made the pliers from liquid-crystal elastomer, a soft polymer material. They bend when visible light shines through attached optical fibres.

The texture of the pliers is similar to a very soft rubber, …