Home > Press > The nanoplasmonics group of the Department of Physics: Professor Stefan Maier and team work on the burgeoning field of nanoplasmonics, which could have a major impact on business and consumer technology
|PhD students Giuliana Di Martino and Yan Francescato|
Stefan Maier's nanoplasmonics group started five years ago with just one other member. It is now a 30-strong team which last year produced 40 publications, almost all in high impact journals, including Nature journals and Science. We met with Stefan and the group.
The nanoplasmonics group of the Department of Physics: Professor Stefan Maier and team work on the burgeoning field of nanoplasmonics, which could have a major impact on business and consumer technology
London, UK | Posted on January 31st, 2013
Many scientists work mostly with chemicals, others with cells, and some with metals. For Professor Stefan Maier (Physics) and his team their currency is light. They try to understand it at a fundamental level, capture it, channel it at the tiniest scale and use it to perform an array of useful technological functions.
Working in experimental physics is challenging to say the least. But the Maier group balances that with bouts of squash and generous helpings of tiramisu - leaving them refreshed and ready for the real work.
"Plasmonics is the study of how light interacts with metallic nanostructures", explains Dr Yannick Sonnefraud, the first and longest-serving member of Maier's group and now a research fellow.
"Light waves couple with the oscillating waves of electrons inside the metal," adds research fellow Dr Antonio Fernandez- Dominguez. "They interact to form a new entity that has the properties of the two - light waves and electron waves. It is this entity that we call a plasmon."
This is, in some ways, similar to what happens in a radio antenna. Radio waves create a current in the metal aerial, which is integrated with the electronics and converted into the sound we hear.
But scientists would really like to make an antenna to convert visible light into a plasmon. This could lead to a range of diverse applications such as extremely fast information processing devices for the telecommunications industry; high-density data storage; and super sensitive chemical detectors that could spot just a couple of molecules of explosive in a liquid sample. This is something that members of the group are busy working towards - though there are some challenges to overcome.
Dr Tyler Roschuk, who has been a post-doc in the group for three years, looks at ways to integrate photonic components such as fibre optics and laser diodes with much smaller microelectronic features.
"We could focus the light down with a nanoplasmonic antenna. Then instead of metal wires between electronic components, we would have plasmonic wires. This would lead to faster devices because multiple packets of information could be sent down the same wire at the same time, much like how several hundred telephone calls can be sent down the same fibre optic cable," he says.
Meanwhile postdoc Dr Heykel Aouani is trying to make nanoantennas that can handle a much broader range of wavelengths, which could lead to powerful sensors for biological applications and security.
"A liquid sample of interest would be wiped over a chip and light would be reflected off this and examined. The use of nanoantennas would indicate whether certain chemicals, such as TNT, are present in the sample. This technology could therefore be useful in airport security scanning in the future," he says.
Some of the PhD students enjoy the benefits of working across two different groups such as Krystallo Hadjicosti, who is co-supervised by Stefan and Dr Katya Shamonina (Electrical and Electronic Engineering).
"Working in this area requires knowledge and experience in both electronics and physics. Collaboration is essential to establish the theory and apply it. Besides, networking in science is very important and being able to meet people from both fields triggers new ideas," she says.
Her situation is not unique, however, and is indicative of the Maier group's philosophy on collaboration.
"Key to the success of our group is that we have been able to collaborate so widely," says Stefan who points to work they've done with Professors Sir John Pendry, Ortwin Hess, Lesley Cohen, and Drs Ned Ekins- Daukes and Paul Stavrinou in Physics, Professor Neil Alford in Materials and Katya in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, in addition to international collaborators.
But the group's success also owes a lot to its friendly environment. "We have a squash ladder tournament whilst Friday beers are also an important event in the group," says research fellow Dr Vincenzo Giannini. "Our members come from all over the world and we try to mix our knowledge."
"We sometimes compete to see who can make the best version of each other's national meals," adds PhD student Giuliana Di Martino. "Yannick made a very good tiramisu recently. But there's a few of us Italians in the group and we weren't going to go as far as admitting that a Frenchman knows how to make a better tiramisu than an Italian!"
As the group moves forward into 2013 there are plenty of exciting challenges to come. Two post docs in the group have recently been awarded Junior Research Fellowships and two alumni have gone on to professorships at overseas universities. It's probably fair to say that in the years to come, the group as a whole will continue to drive advances in the field of nanoplasmonics, which will have an increasing impact on business and consumer technology worldwide.
— Photographs and editorial by Sam Tracey for Communications and Development
About Imperial College London
Consistently rated amongst the world's best universities, Imperial College London is a science-based institution with a reputation for excellence in teaching and research that attracts 14,000 students and 6,000 staff of the highest international quality. Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and business, delivering practical solutions that improve quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.
Since its foundation in 1907, Imperial's contributions to society have included the discovery of penicillin, the development of holography and the foundations of fibre optics. This commitment to the application of research for the benefit of all continues today, with current focuses including interdisciplinary collaborations to improve global health, tackle climate change, develop sustainable sources of energy and address security challenges.
In 2007, Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust formed the UK's first Academic Health Science Centre. This unique partnership aims to improve the quality of life of patients and populations by taking new discoveries and translating them into new therapies as quickly as possible.
For more information, please click here
Imperial College London
South Kensington Campus
London SW7 2AZ
tel: +44 (0)20 7589 5111
Copyright © Imperial College London
If you have a comment, please Contact
Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.
News and information
Canatu Launches CNB In-Mold Film for Transparent Touch on 3D Surfaces –in Cars, Household Appliances, Wearables, Portables November 20th, 2014
Sustainable Nanotechnologies Project November 20th, 2014
Quantum mechanical calculations reveal the hidden states of enzyme active sites November 20th, 2014
UO-industry collaboration points to improved nanomaterials: University of Oregon microscope puts spotlight on the surface structure of quantum dots for designing new solar devices November 20th, 2014
SUNY Poly Student Awarded Fellowship with the U.S. Department of Energy's Postgraduate Research Program: Ph.D. Candidate Accepts Postmaster's Appointment To Conduct Research At Albany NanoTech Complex November 13th, 2014
SUNY Polytechnic Institute Hosts Massive Crowd of More Than 3,000 People Who Attended Community Day Activities Across New York State: CNSE’s ‘NANOvember’ kickoff event highlights New York State’s growing high-tech sector with open house events in Albany, Utica, and Rochester November 3rd, 2014
SUNY Polytechnic Institute Invites the Public to Attend its Popular Statewide 'NANOvember' Series of Outreach and Educational Events October 23rd, 2014
First Canada Excellence Research Chair gets $10 million from the federal government for oilsands research at the University of Calgary: Federal government announces prestigious research chair to study improving oil production efficiency October 19th, 2014
Optical computing/ Photonic computing
Penn engineers efficiently 'mix' light at the nanoscale November 17th, 2014
Nanoparticles Break the Symmetry of Light October 6th, 2014
Speed at its limits September 30th, 2014
'Pixel' engineered electronics have growth potential: Rice, Oak Ridge, Vanderbilt, Penn scientists lead creation of atom-scale semiconducting composites September 29th, 2014
Purdue 3-D printing innovation capable of making stronger, lighter metal works for auto, aerospace industries November 20th, 2014
Leica Microsystems Presents Universal Hybrid Detector for Single Molecule Detection and Imaging at SfN and ASCB: Leica HyD SMD - the Optimal Detector for Precise and Reliable SMD data November 20th, 2014
Silver Nanoparticles Produced in Iran from Forest Plants Extract November 20th, 2014
Nano Sorbents Able to Remove Pollutions Caused by Oil Derivatives November 20th, 2014
NRL Scientists Discover Novel Metamaterial Properties within Hexagonal Boron Nitride November 20th, 2014
Penn engineers efficiently 'mix' light at the nanoscale November 17th, 2014
'Direct writing' of diamond patterns from graphite a potential technological leap November 5th, 2014
Outsmarting Thermodynamics in Self-assembly of Nanostructures: Berkeley Lab reports method for symmetry-breaking in feedback-driven self-assembly of optical metamaterials November 4th, 2014