Rochester Nano Optics









Optics for Kids



Last updated: January 24, 2012

Welcome to the Nano-Optics group. We are an experimental and theoretical research group at the University of Rochester 's Institute of Optics.

The Nano-Optics Group studies optical interactions with matter on a subwavelength scale. Topics of interest are near-field optical spectroscopy, single molecule studies, and nanostructured materials for sensing applications. Please see our Research web page for more details.


What is Nano-Optics ?

Today we encounter a strong trend towards nanoscience and nanotechnology. This trend is motivated by the fact that as we move to smaller and smaller scales the underlying physical laws change from macroscopic to microscopic. The exploitation of quantum effects for technological applications is the most obvious driving force behind the current miniaturization. The recent rapid advances are due in large part to our newly acquired ability to measure and manipulate individual structures on the nanoscale (scanning probe techniques, optical tweezers, high-resolution electron microscopes, ... ).

The increasing trend towards nanoscience and nanotechnology makes it necessary to address the key issues of optics on the nanometer scale. Since the diffraction limit does not allow us to focus light to dimensions smaller than roughly half a wavelength, traditionally it was not possible to interact selectively with nanoscale features. In recent years several new approaches have been put forth to 'shrink' the diffraction limit (confocal microscopy) or to even overcome it (near-field microscopy). For example, with our tip-enhancement technique we are able to do Raman spectrocopy and multiphoton fluorescence imaging with a spatial resolution of less than 20nm. To date, this is the highest optical resolution of a spectroscopic measurement.

The reason for the hard effort to advance the field of optics to the nanometer scale is the fact that the energy of light lies in the range of electronic and vibrational transitions in matter. Therefore, the interaction of light with matter renders unique information about the structural and dynamical properties of matter. These unique spectroscopic capabilities are of great importance for the study of biological and solid-state nanostructures. We are applying near-field optical techniques to probe complex semiconductor nanostructures as well as individual protein molecules. We plan to explore the possibility to optically interact with semiconductor nanostructures on length scales smaller than the extent of their quantum wavefunctions. Probing and manipulating these wavefunctions might open up various exciting applications such as data storage and optical switching based on quantum logic.

Nano-optics addresses the broad spectrum of optics on the nanometer scale covering technology and basic science. On the technological side, we find topics like nanolithography and high density optical data storage. On the basic sciences end, we might mention atom-photon interactions in the optical near-field and their potential applications for atom trapping and manipulation experiments. Compared with free propagating light the optical near-field is enriched by so-called virtual photons. These are the same sort of particles responsible for molecular binding (van der Waals / Casimir forces) and are therefore promising for selective probing of atomic structures. The consideration of virtual photons in the field of quantum optics will enlarge the range of fundamental experiments and applications.

Many research topics in nanoscience are interdisciplinary in nature and must be addressed with a collaborative effort. Therefore, we collaborate with many different research groups and are open to new interactions.

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