The fourth paper from my thesis, entitled "Dual-trap optical tweezers with real-time force clamp control", has just been published online by Review of Scientific Instruments: http://link.aip.org/link/doi/10.1063/1.3615309
Here's a video from the paper. We are holding on to two micron sized plastic spheres with laser-beams (shown in the video as green/cyan cross-hairs). The lower beam/trap is stationary while the upper one is steerable. A ca 16um long DNA-molecule (invisible) is tethered between the beads.The experiment is performed in the presence of lambda exonuclease, an enzyme that "eats up" one strand of the DNA leaving just a single-stranded DNA-tether between the beads.
In the first part of the video a force-extension curve (bottom panel) is obtained using manual control. We stretch out the molecule by moving the upper trap upwards and check that the force-signal looks like it should when we have a single DNA-molecule of the right length between the beads.
In the second part, after t = 20 s, the tether is held force clamped at 3.4 pN (force shown in top panel). We're keeping the force constant with a PI-controller implemented on an FPGA that reads the force-signal from the lower bead and updates the position of the upper trap at around 200 kHz. As the molecule shortens the controller needs to move the upper trap/bead lower in order to maintain a 3.4 pN tension in the molecule. The video is at normal speed (1X) while the force extension curve is measured. During 13 min of force-clamp control the video is sped up 25-fold. During this time the exonuclease digests one strand of the double-stranded DNA molecule. When held at 3.4 pN of tension, single-stranded DNA is significantly shorter than double-stranded DNA. So the gradual conversion from a double-stranded tether to a single-stranded tether is seen as a decrease in the extension, i.e. a shortening of the distance between the plastic beads (middle panel). The tether broke at t = 880 s. Scale-bar 5 ?m.
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