Since their invention just over 20 years ago, optical traps have emerged as a powerful tool with broad-reaching applications in biology and physics. Capabilities have evolved from simple manipulation to the application of calibrated forces on—and the measurement of nanometer-level displacements of—optically trapped objects. We review progress in the development of optical trapping apparatus, including instrument design considerations, position detection schemes and calibration techniques, with an emphasis on recent advances. We conclude with a brief summary of innovative optical trapping configurations and applications.

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