Research ArticleAPPLIED ACOUSTICS

Laser streaming: Turning a laser beam into a flow of liquid

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Science Advances  27 Sep 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 9, e1700555
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700555

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Abstract

Transforming a laser beam into a mass flow has been a challenge both scientifically and technologically. We report the discovery of a new optofluidic principle and demonstrate the generation of a steady-state water flow by a pulsed laser beam through a glass window. To generate a flow or stream in the same path as the refracted laser beam in pure water from an arbitrary spot on the window, we first fill a glass cuvette with an aqueous solution of Au nanoparticles. A flow will emerge from the focused laser spot on the window after the laser is turned on for a few to tens of minutes; the flow remains after the colloidal solution is completely replaced by pure water. Microscopically, this transformation is made possible by an underlying plasmonic nanoparticle-decorated cavity, which is self-fabricated on the glass by nanoparticle-assisted laser etching and exhibits size and shape uniquely tailored to the incident beam profile. Hydrophone signals indicate that the flow is driven via acoustic streaming by a long-lasting ultrasound wave that is resonantly generated by the laser and the cavity through the photoacoustic effect. The principle of this light-driven flow via ultrasound, that is, photoacoustic streaming by coupling photoacoustics to acoustic streaming, is general and can be applied to any liquid, opening up new research and applications in optofluidics as well as traditional photoacoustics and acoustic streaming.

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