A method and apparatus for the manipulation of colloidal particulates and biomolecules at the interface between an insulating electrode such as silicon oxide and an electrolyte solution. Light-controlled elektrokinetic assembly of particles near surfaces relies on the combination of three functional elements, the AC electric field-induced assembly of planar aggregates; the patterning of the electrolyte/silicon oxide/silicon interface to exert spatial control over the assembly process; and the real-time control of the assembly process via external illumination. The present invention provides a set of fundamental operations enabling interactive control over the creation and placement of planar arrays of several types of particles and biomolecules and the manipulation of array shape and size. The present invention enables sample preparation and handling for diagnostic assays and biochemical analysis in an array format, and the functional integration of these operations. In addition, the present invention provides a procedure for the creation of material surfaces with desired properties and for the fabrication of surface-mounted optical components. This invention is also for a method and apparatus to direct the lateral motion and induce the assembly into planar arrays of cells on semiconductor surfaces in response to temporally and spatially varying electric fields and to projected patterns of illumination.