Riboswitches are gene regulatory elements found in messenger RNA that function by changing structure upon the binding of a ligand to an aptamer domain. Single adenine-binding pbuE riboswitch aptamer RNAs were unfolded and refolded co-transcriptionally using optical tweezers for single molecule force spectroscopy. The kinetic and energetic properties of distinct folding intermediates were characterised with and without the binding of adenine. These observed intermediates were related to structural elements of the aptamer, which were found to fold sequentially, in a transcriptionally independent manner. The mechanical switch underlying the regulatory action of the riboswitch was observed directly (adenine stabilisation of the weakest helix), and the energy landscape for the folding was reconstructed.The construction of a dual-beam optical trap with separate detection and trapping laser beams manipulated and focused into a rigid, modified inverted microscope is also described. This instrument aims to achieve angstrom-level resolution through careful design to reduce noise.