Nanoparticles are important in several areas of modern biomedical research. However, detection and characterization of nanoparticles is challenging due to their small size. Back-focal-plane interferometry (BFPI) is a highly sensitive technique that has been used in laser tweezers for quantitative measurement of force and displacement. The utility of BFPI for detection and characterization of nanoparticles, however, has not yet been achieved. Here we show that BFPI can be used for rapid probing of a suspension of nanoparticles in a spatially confined microfluidic channel. We show that the Gaussian Root-mean-squared noise of the BFPI signal is highly sensitive to the nanoparticle size and can be used as a parameter for rapid detection of nanoparticles at a single-particle level and characterization of particle heterogeneities in a suspension. By precisely aligning the optical trap relative to the channel boundaries, individual polystyrene particles with a diameter as small as 63 nm can be detected using BFPI with a high signal-to-noise ratio.
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