The Manipulation of Light
It is now possible to fabricate minuscule structures with dimensions that are smaller than the wavelengths of visible light in the laboratory. This has made it possible to extend the conventional limits of optics and investigate light-matter interactions on the nanoscale. At the Nano-Institute, postdoctoral physicist and Humboldt Fellow Haoran Ren is working in this new field of nanophotonics. He is interested in using structured light with spatially inhomogeneous optical properties to control and actively modulate the interaction between light and matter. “Our research opens up new opportunities to observe and understand entirely novel optical phenomena, which can perhaps be exploited to develop new applications in nanophotonics.” The field is highly interdisciplinary in character, as it combines research in optics with nanotechnology.
Ren emphasizes the outstanding technical facilities available in the new Institute. Technologically, it is on a par with the best in the world, he says. This is certainly true of the state-of-the-art technologies for nanofabrication. These include electron-beam lithography, which makes it possible to form extremely tiny structures. These and other techniques enable designer nanostructures and novel hybrid materials to be produced in the cleanrooms in the basement of the Institute. In addition, high-precision optical apparatus, fully equipped chemical laboratories and complex instrumentation for characterization purposes can be found in the workrooms. This technical capacity permits the nanoscale optical system required for the generation and controlled manipulation of structured light to be constructed in house. This system will be used for characterization and detailed investigations of the optical properties of newly developed hybrid nanomaterials.
Ren also underlines the importance of the frequent contacts and discussions with colleagues that the Institute is specifically designed to facilitate. “The two departments housed in the new building provide an outstanding environment for lectures, meetings and daily discussions on a wide variety of topics,” he says, with obvious enthusiasm.