A team of researchers is leveraging the touch-screen functionality of the iPad to manipulate tiny particles, providing scientists with greater insights into the microscopic processes of organisms.
Optics researchers at the Universities of Glasgow and Bristol in Scotland developed this latest iPad application for accurate, easy and intuitive use of a scientific instrument called “optical tweezers.”
These optical tweezers are capable of manipulating nanometer- (one-billionth of a meter) and micrometer- (one-millionth of a meter) sized particles by exerting extremely small forces through a highly focused laser beam. The beam becomes ultra-focused after it is sent to its target through a microscope.
However, in the past, molecular biologists struggled to overcome the limitations of the computer mouse and joy-stick controlled systems available at the time. The scientists said it was often difficult, and at times cumbersome, to manipulate such small particles accurately.
The idea, according to a paper released today (March 4)in the Journal of Optics, was to create an intuitive interface 3-D control system using the iPad’s touch-screen technology.
The application allows researchers a range of techniques for moving particles around, including pinching the screen or tilting the iPad. "The interface is responsive and easy to use, so even inexperienced users can trap particles, move them around and translate the microscope stage," researchers wrote in the paper.
Now, moving single and multiparticles left and right, up and down — or even rotating a micrometer-sized particle — is expected to be much easier.
The iPad-based interface also allows for intuitive control of a holographic optical tweezers system using a dedicated application on the iPad and a modified version of tweezers' control software running on a host PC, according to the report.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs has long expounded the ancillary benefits of the iPad, calling the tablet "a truly magical and revolutionary device." And when scientists discover ways to observe the world with the iPad in a manner they were unable to before, it certainly gives credence to his claims.
This story was provided by iPadNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience.