Controlling light at the nanoscale

Controlling light at the nanoscale


I think the wellspring of scientific
curiosity is the desire to always learn more. When I am interviewing new students
to join the lab, what I look for foremost is enthusiasm. I really want the student to be passionate
about the work that they’re doing and once they have that passion, I,
as their advisor, can help with the rest. We’re generally interested in creating new methods
to control the interaction of light with materials. So much of what makes our planet tick and what makes humans thrive
is based on light. Once you have the ability
to control light and use it to visualize things happening
from the nano scale to the macro scale, you then have the ability to
better control phenomena. To understand just how
small a nanometer is, the red blood cell would be
on the order of ten microns. If there were a virus attacking that cell, the virus would be about 100
nanometers across, and usually, the structures we’re dealing with about 10
times smaller within the size of a virus. One of the ways we’re using,
nanotechnology, is trying to make synthetic squid skin. Squid have the amazing ability of
being able to camouflage themselves to match almost any background
in their environment. If you can control light on the nano scale you
have the ability to create next generation information technology, for example,
you can replace the electronic circuits of today with optical circuits,
computing at the speed of light. I’ve another research area in optical
trapping and optical manipulation, essentially using focused laser
beams coupled with nano materials to be able to directly track and
manipulate small particles and proteins. We’re using that in both
biological systems and also in new water filtration technology. My third thrust is in energy
storage trying to understand and improve batteries. And then a fourth thrust is in up
conversion creating materials that take low energy photons and
convert them to higher energy photons. And a prime thrust there is to
utilize more of the solar spectrum in photovoltaic cells and
in photocatalytic cells. [MUSIC]

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