Optical Matter

What are the properties of material assemblies where the inter-particle forces are mediated by coherent light? How can we leverage these properties to address current challenges at the nano- and micro-scale?

What is Optical Matter?

Particles in optical traps interact with one another via scattered electromagnetic fields, and an assemble into stable structures known as Optical Matter. Optical matter is commonly compared to conventional chemically bonded materials because it tends to adopt periodic lattice structures. Since optical matter assemblies are maintained by a constant flux of energy through the system, broken symmetry in the constituents of optical matter assemblies can result in nonequilibrium driven dynamics.

optical binding

Particles in a coherent optical field interact with each other via scattered light. Stable separations occur at integer multiples of the radiation wavelength due to constructive interference. How can we use this type of interaction to address current challenges related to bottom-up self-assembly at small scales?

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Symmetry & optical binding

Optical matter is inherently a non-equilibrium system. Broken symmetry in an optical matter system, either in the material components or the incident field, results in forces and torques on the system. How can we leverage these resultant forces and torques to do useful work at very small scales?

inter-dependence of phase, structure, inter-particle forces, and driving forces

Phase gradients result in driving forces for single particles in optical fields. Optically bound particles in phase gradients can enhance or diminish these driving forces. Conversely, the presence of a large phase gradient dramatically affects the optical binding interaction.

 Left: caption description