Laura Pérez García, Jaime Donlucas Pérez, Giorgio Volpe, Alejandro V. Arzola & Giovanni Volpe
The accurate measurement of microscopic force fields is crucial in many branches of science and technology, from biophotonics and mechanobiology to microscopy and optomechanics. These forces are often probed by analysing their influence on the motion of Brownian particles. Here we introduce a powerful algorithm for microscopic force reconstruction via maximum-likelihood-estimator analysis (FORMA) to retrieve the force field acting on a Brownian particle from the analysis of its displacements. FORMA estimates accurately the conservative and non-conservative components of the force field with important advantages over established techniques, being parameter-free, requiring ten-fold less data and executing orders-of-magnitude faster. We demonstrate FORMA performance using optical tweezers, showing how, outperforming other available techniques, it can identify and characterise stable and unstable equilibrium points in generic force fields. Thanks to its high performance, FORMA can accelerate the development of microscopic and nanoscopic force transducers for physics, biology and engineering.