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  1. Abstract

    Directed high-speed motion of nanoscale objects in fluids can have a wide range of applications like molecular machinery, nano robotics, and material assembly. Here, we report ballistic plasmonic Au nanoparticle (NP) swimmers with unprecedented speeds (~336,000 μm s−1) realized by not only optical pushing but also pulling forces from a single Gaussian laser beam. Both the optical pulling and high speeds are made possible by a unique NP-laser interaction. The Au NP excited by the laser at the surface plasmon resonance peak can generate a nanoscale bubble, which can encapsulate the NP (i.e., supercavitation) to create a virtually frictionless environment for it to move, like the Leidenfrost effect. Certain NP-in-bubble configurations can lead to the optical pulling of NP against the photon stream. The demonstrated ultra-fast, light-driven NP movement may benefit a wide range of nano- and bio-applications and provide new insights to the field of optical pulling force.